Water and the City

Valerie  Yeo's picture
Call for Papers
October 31, 2019
Subject Fields: 
Environmental History / Studies, Geography, History of Science, Medicine, and Technology, Urban Design and Planning, Urban History / Studies



Workshop on Water and the City

6-7 February 2020, National University of Singapore


Organized by Asia Research Institute, and Institute of Water Policy at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore.

Life in Asian cities, home to 54% of the world’s urban population (United Nations, 2018), is an anthropocenic, although negotiated, contest with the demands of nature. Large technical urban infrastructures, particularly those conveying water, sewerage and energy, have become vital interlocutors of modern urban metabolic exchanges that power life in many Asian cities.


In this workshop, we focus on people’s relationship with water in the city, including the institutions of governance, public narratives and the policy and social implications of dependence on large, centralized hydraulic infrastructures, commonly referred to as the “hard infrastructure path.”


This workshop will include papers that discuss different aspects of water and the city, taking a critical perspective to the modern, urban infrastructural trajectory, and its implications for urban society, and its dwellers, around the world. We are delighted to announce that the following academics and policy makers have already accepted our invitation to speak at this workshop.




Dr Peter Gleick | President Emeritus, Pacific Institute, USA
Dr Henning Bjornlund | Research Professor in Water Policy and Management, School of Commerce, University of South Australia, Australia
Dr Nikhil Anand | Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology, University of Pennsylvania, USA
Dr Sara Ahmed | Adjunct Professor, Centre for Heritage Management, Ahmedabad University, India


We want to build on these presentations and invite papers on a range of topics that seek to address the following guiding questions of this workshop:

  1. What are the governance regimes and narratives that define, conscribe and instantiate the perceptions of urban dwellers, of water in their city?
  2. How do urban users interact with large hydraulic infrastructures, and how does this shape users’ perceptions of risk, and perceived responsibility in managing environmental risks and problems, with consequences for users’ resilience to environmental risks and problems? 
  3. How are citizen-community-state negotiation of responsibilities towards environmental risks, impacted or mediated, by large hydraulic infrastructures?
  4. What alternatives are there to large hydraulic infrastructures, and what might be their impact on urban citizens’ resilience? In addition, what are the barriers to the uptake of these alternatives for city-making?

Additionally, we welcome papers that seek to address the soft water path approach and its applications in specific urban contexts globally (Gleick & Wolff, 2004): How has the soft water path been implemented in these case contexts, why, and what has its implications been for local urban communities or city dwellers in general? While the focus is on Asia, we welcome interesting cases from around the world.




Paper proposals should include a title, an abstract (250 words maximum) and a brief personal biography of 150 words for submission by 31 October 2019. Please note that only previously unpublished papers or those not already committed elsewhere can be accepted. The organizers plan to publish a special issue with selected papers presented in this workshop. By participating in the workshop, you agree to participate in the future publication plans of the organizers. Hotel accommodation and a contribution towards airfare will be provided for accepted paper participants (one author per paper). In developing the proposal, it is important to show how your specific case relates to the wider relevant literature and the ways in which your case elaborates on important themes identified in the literature.


Please submit your proposal using the provided template on the website to Ms. Valerie Yeo at valerie.yeo@nus.edu.sg. Notifications of acceptance will be sent out by mid November. Participants will be required to send in a completed draft paper (4,000 to 5,000 words) by 10 January 2020.




Assoc Prof Ho Kong Chong |  Asia Research Institute, and Department of Sociology, National University of Singapore

Assoc Prof Leong Ching | Institute of Water Policy, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore

Dr Corinne Ong | Institute of Water Policy, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore

Contact Info: 

Valerie Yeo

Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore

AS8, #07-01, 10 Kent Ridge Cresecent, Singapore 119260

Contact Email: