Water Seminar I

This is part of our Campus Spotlight on the Global Water Initiative at the University of Virginia.



  • Participation: 20%
  • Weekly Questions/Responses: Due each Monday by 3pm (10%)
    • Each week you must post 2-3 questions or responses on the class forum that demonstrate thoughtful engagement with the reading. The questions/responses should be designed to prompt discussion of the reading, to clarify terms or meaning or what have you, or both.
  • Weekly Journal: Due each Tuesday by 5pm (5%)
  • Weekly Reading Responses: Due each Friday by midnight (15%)
  • Research Paper: 50%
    • Prospectus and bibliography
    • Draft
    • Peer Review
    • Final Paper

Steven Johnson, The Ghost Map

Week 1: January 22: Thinking About Water

Jamie Linton, “Intimations of Modern Water,” from What is Water? The History of a Modern Abstraction (2010); Christopher Hamlin, “‘Waters’ or ‘Water’?: Master Narratives in Water History and their Implications for Contemporary Water Policy,” (2000); Karen Bakker, “Water: Political, Biopolitical, Material”; Peter Gleick, “The Human Right to Water” (1998); Christine Bichsel, “Water and the (Infra-)Structure of Political Rule: A Synthesis”

Primary: UN Resolution 64/292. The human right to water and sanitation (2010)


Week 2: January 29: The Practice of History

William Cronon, “A Place for Stories: Nature, History and Narrative”; Eric Carr, “What is History?”; Richard White, “Environmental History: Watching a Historical Field Mature”


Week 3: February 5: The American West

Donald Pisani, “Uneasy Allies: The Bureau of Reclamation and the Bureau of Indian Affairs” and “Case Studies in Water and Power: The Yakima and the Pima” from Water and the American Government: The Reclamation Bureau, National Water Policy, and the West, 1902-1935; Donald Worster,

“Reflections in a Ditch,” from Rivers of Empire: Water, Aridity, and the Growth of the American West

Primary: William E. Smythe, “Ways and Means in Modern America” (1896)


Week 4: February: 12: Rivers and Global Development

David Ekbladh, “‘Mr. TVA’: Grass-Roots Development, David Lilienthal, and the Rise and Fall of the Tennessee Valley Authority as a Symbol for U.S. Overseas Development, 1933-1973”; Christopher Sneddon, “Large Dams, Technopoltics, and Development,” from Concrete Revolution: Large Dams, Cold War Geopolitics, and the US Bureau of Reclamation; Michael Goldman, “Privatizing Water, Neoliberalizing Civil Society,” from Imperial Nature: The World Bank and Struggles for Social Justice in the Age of Globalization

Primary: Willard Espy, “Dams for the Floods of War: TVA’s are needed in many backward lands to raise living standards and to promote peace,” New York Times (1947)

Week 5: February 19: Cities: Cholera and London

Steven Johnson, The Ghost Map

Primary: John Simon, “Report on the Last Two Cholera Epidemics of London, As Affected by the Consumption of Impure Water” (1856) read only through page 15


Week 6: February 26: Water and Development in the Global South

Karen Bakker, “Constructing ‘Public’ Water: The World Bank, Urban Water Supply, and the Biopolitics of Development”; Matthew Gandy, “The Bacteriological City and its Discontents”;

Mariam Dossal, “Henry Conybeare and the politics of centralised water supply in mid-nineteenth century Bombay”; David Rosner, “Flint, Michigan: A Century of Environmental Injustice” (2016); Barbara van Koppen, “Water and Gender” from The Oxford Handbook of Water Politics and Policy

In class: FILM: Matthew Gandy, Liquid City

Published on December 11, 2018.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email