Water as "time-substance": the hydrosocialities of climate change in Nepal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


  • Praju Gurung
  • Prem Sagar Chapagain
  • Santosh Regmi
  • Jagat Bhusal
  • Art Dewulf
  • Timos Karpouzoglu

External organisations

  • Wageningen Univ
  • Wageningen University and Research Centre


This article develops a novel theoretical framework to explain how water’s situatedness relates to its political agency. Recent post-human scholarship emphasises these qualities, but surprisingly no sustained analysis has been undertaken of this interrelation. Here we do so by theorizing water as a “time-substance” to reposition human hydrological struggles (including those exacerbated by climate change) around the topologies and temporalities rather than the spatialities of water. This innovative approach opens up new areas of geographical enquiry based on hydrosocial forms, hydrosocial transformations and hydrosocial information (collectively referred to here as hydrosocialities). We contend hydrosocialities enable the tracing of human-water relations that transcend times and scales, and the matricial categories of subject and object to overcome the situated-agential binary of water. Drawing on two years’ fieldwork in Mustang, Nepal, this conceptual framework is deployed to examine hydrosocialities in two remote mountain communities. We show hydrosocialities comprise diverse water knowledge-practices constituted from multiple points of proximity between the social and the hydrological in space and time. In turn, this conceptual framework underscores the importance of boundary objects in mediating water’s situated-agential qualities. The article concludes that consequently boundary objects can play a crucial role in producing new practical hydrosocial politics of climate change mitigation and adaptation.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1351-1369
JournalAnnals of the American Association of Geographers
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 29 Jun 2017


  • water, boundary object, change, topologies, hydrosocialities