Dams and other large water infrastructures are more than mere technical projects in Pakistan. They carry a special symbolic burden and are understood by the state as vectors of modernisation. This paper interrogates the making of a statist hydraulic imaginary in Pakistan in the 1960s and its continued relevance today. This imaginary posits a technocratic state as the protagonist in a national narrative of hydro-modernisation. I argue that the production and dissemination of an imaginary of racialised internal peripheries as places of developmental backwardness is central to the Pakistani state’s infrastructural interventions. I analyse images and narratives from state produced magazines and videos by contextualising them with respect to the cultural politics of hegemony. The paper advances debates in critical infrastructure studies via a critical reading of Antonio Gramsci’s incomplete essay on the “Southern Question”. It develops a tradition of cultural historical materialism—largely neglected by critical water geographers—attuned to the articulation of geographic unevenness, hegemony, and racial difference.
- critical water geography
- hydraulic imaginary