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Colonialism and its legacies, as reflected in water, incorporating a view from Malawi

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Continued, accelerating water inequalities and conflicts in the postcolonial world cannot be properly grasped without a thorough understanding of colonialism and its legacies. At the same time, water as a resource provides an immensely useful lens for understanding the intricacies and the dynamics of the colonial and postcolonial eras, in general terms, and in the particular historical instance of Malawi examined here. This essay draws on a range of literatures—social theory, political ecology, history, anthropology, sociology, geography, and so on—to demonstrate that struggles over water and other natural resources in the postcolonial world are situated within wider global structures and relationships of power. Starting with a discussion of theoretical approaches to water, the essay goes on to examine the processes of state formation in Sub‐Saharan Africa, and explore the intersectionality of the contemporary lived experience of class, gender, race, and ethnicity in this region. It ends with a consideration of social differentiation, land tenure, degradation of water resources and natural resource conflict in Malawi. Traversing across humanities and social science disciplines, this essay uses water as a means of cutting a path through world historical questions on the articulations between the global and the local in the present era. This article is categorized under: Human Water > Water Governance Human Water > Water as Imagined and Represented

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