New paper: Varieties of knowledge for urban flood governance in Chennai

My new paper with Prof. Isa Baud in Habitat International just became available online. [gated, but write me] It is part of a special issue on Configuring Knowledge for urban water-related risks and vulnerabilities.

Though several shorter pieces written for a lay audience will follow, the paper centres on why despite the fact that all the knowledge needed for managing floods in Chennai is locally available, there are distinct barriers to knowledge sharing, based on framings that determine what it relevant to consider as flood management, or not.

Here is the abstract:

This article investigates how varieties of knowledge about flooding contribute to a more effective flood management (FM) governance configuration in Chennai, India. Drawing on the assemblage perspective and using the configurations approach for socio-spatial analyses of the city, we trace the knowledge construction processes around two networked FM infrastructures, drawing out the different discourses, actor coalitions and processes of practice. We see how technical knowledge on storm water drains is embedded and transformed within the primary government network, and how complementary knowledges about the ery system are expressed through counter mappings by academic activists. Identifying potential intersections between these knowledge processes indicates a strong potential to link long-term water management strategies that would mutually contribute to addressing the city’s issues of flood risks and drinking water scarcity. However, we find that the varieties of knowledge around Chennai’s FM run in parallel networks with few intersections, presenting distinct institutional boundaries to cross-boundary knowledge sharing. Lastly, using integrated FM as a heuristic framework, we analyse the contributions of the different streams of knowledge and the remaining gaps in order to assess the potential of building up the interconnections in Chennai’s FM configuration.


  • Configurations;
  • Assemblages;
  • Urban governance;
  • Integrated flood management;
  • Rainwater harvesting;
  • Knowledge politics


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