Water cultures as assemblages

Indigenous, neoliberal, colonial water cultures in northern Australia

Jessica McLean*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

9 Citations (Scopus)


The hydro-social cycle has offered a productive analytical framework for understanding human-water relations in a range of contexts within geography. While there is emerging use of assemblage thinking in this area, there is substantial scope to connect human-water relations to this literature. Further, the way culture is situated within hydro-social analyses invites closer examination. This article offers a critical examination of water cultures, as produced through assemblages in the Ord catchment, northern Australia, to tease out the ways in which power circulates in this context, and to trace the historical trajectories that have led to tensions between current water cultures. Indigenous water cultures are resilient to multiple impositions of colonising and neoliberal water cultures in the Ord, and Miriuwung Gajerrong peoples continue to assert their rights to water irrespective of a lack of broader recognition. An assemblage approach to water cultures shows that what is conceptualised by some as appropriate water policy is embedded within colonial and neoliberal practices.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)81-89
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Rural Studies
Publication statusPublished - May 2017


  • Assemblages
  • Colonisation
  • Indigenous
  • Water cultures
  • Water Governance

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Water cultures as assemblages: Indigenous, neoliberal, colonial water cultures in northern Australia'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

  • Cite this