Desiring the data state in the Indus Basin

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The distribution of water between co-riparian regions in the Indus Basin has been an extremely contentious issue since at least the early 20th century. The reliability of water measurements, in particular, has caused much controversy at multiple scales. This hydropolitical tension has catalysed a key social group – the hydraulic bureaucracy or ‘hydrocracy’ – to enact strategies of depoliticisation. These strategies aim to suppress political contest by calling on external expertise and/or technology to assure the objectivity of water measurement data. This paper draws on archival data and interviews with water engineers to argue that technocratic depoliticisation operates in distinct but related ways at different scales. Further, I argue that to analyse the technocratic desire for a data state – a state that governs primarily or exclusively by number and calculation – a multi-scalar theoretical framework that connects the politics of technocracy, territory and nationalism is needed. The paper develops such a framework by situating hydrocrats and their strategies in the broader context of state formation. This framework is offered as a way for critical scholars of resources, development and expertise to engage with depoliticisation and repoliticisation of resource governance as complex geographic processes. The information, practices and views in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG). © 2016 Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers)
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)377-389
Number of pages13
JournalTransactions of the institute of british geographers
Issue number3
Early online date11 Dec 2016
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2017


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