Bold Riparian Schemes: The Hydrosocial Cycle Across Time and Space

Louise Noble (Senior Lecturer in English, School of Arts, University of New England, Australia) then delivered a paper called “Bold Riparian Schemes: The Hydrosocial Cycle Across Time and Space” that took us through the landscape of cultural memory where the waterscape of a wet, lush England haunts the arid landscapes of Australia. Tracing a hydrosocial cycle, she netted meaning from “pathways dependency” and the resilience of metaphors in literature to the people and societies through which water flows.

The concept of the “hydrosocial cycle” takes as a given the interrelationship between the hydrological and the social, and the critical need to better understand the circulation of water on our planet through considerations of the social, cultural and political. This model provides a useful way to think about the history of water in the Australian cultural imagination and how this has influenced water management decisions since early British settlement. I look at sixteenth and seventeenth-century English water meadows to show how memories and representations of water are particular kinds of social and cultural knowledge that flow, as does water itself, through and across time and space to produce the dreams and schemes driving water governance in Australia since British settlement. To this end I use Robert Drewe’s novel, The Drowner, as a lens through which to explore representations of water as multitemporal and multispatial as they circulate from irrigation practices in sixteenth and seventeenth century England, to pipeline engineering in late nineteenth-century Western Australia.

About the image: Harnham Water Meadows, Wiltshire

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