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Environment and History

‘Not A Drop of Water...’: State, Modernity and the Production of Nature in Spain, 1898–2010

Erik Swyngedouw

Environment and History 20 (2014): 67-92. doi: 10.3197/096734014X13851121443445

In this paper, I excavate the socio-environmental production of Spanish society during the twentieth century through the lens of the central role water politics, economics, culture and engineering played in Spain's tumultuous modernisation process. I explore first the origins of Spain's early-twentieth-century modernisation process (1890-1930) and the production of a national modernising imaginary as expressed in debates and actions around the hydrological condition. In the second part, I focus on how Spain's modernisation process after the Civil War became a profoundly scalar geographical project, articulated through the production of a specific technonatural hydraulic edifice during Franco's authoritarian rule (1939-1975). In the third part, I explore how the desalination of seawater has become one of the key contested terrains for managing hydro-scarcities since the transition to democracy.

The broader intellectual objective of the paper is, first, to show how diverse political projects, social visions, physical matter, ecological concerns, cultural imaginaries, discursive formations, institutional practices, economic strategies of competitiveness and engineering technologies fuse together and articulate around specific hydro-technical imaginaries and infrastructures. Second, the paper documents how human and non-human actants become enrolled in such processes of hydro-social transformation. Third, the paper considers how the networks of actors sustaining hydro-social transformations mark the transition from a state-centred hydro-structural to a decentralised region-centred market environmentalist water framework.

KEYWORDS: Water, Spain, Franco, political-ecology, hydro-social cycle

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