Institute of Geography and Sustainability of the University of Lausanne
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Urban water and governmentality in Switzerland (1850-2010)

Research fields Development, societies, environments
Political Ecology
Water resources
Political Ecology
Globalization / Liberalization
Politiques urbaines
Gouvernance urbaine
Urban political ecology
Decentralization / Governance
Keywords Institutions
Water management
Environmental governance
Environmental politics
Political ecology
Funding Graduate assistante (UNIL)
Duration September 2010 - August 2015
Researchers Rattu Paola (Doctoral student)
Véron René (Supervision) [web] [email]

Urban water is manipulated and inserted into the socio-economic structure of the city in order to constitute the hydro-social cycle. The hydro-social cycle both reveals and is a component of the powers that be. In Western Europe, power and how it is used and perceived have undergone a series of changes, from the physical constraint to the moral constraint and finally to the auto-constraint, put in place through various technologies of power. Nowadays, in particular after the spread of neoliberalism and neoliberalisations, states encourage what Foucault called 'governmentality'. The object of this research is to study the changes in the exercise of power as the hydro-social cycle and of the discourses relating to it evolve, from a Foucauldian perspective. The aims of this research are twofold. Firstly, Foucauldian concepts such as governmentality and methods, especially the archaeology of knowledge, will be applied to the hydro-social cycle, which the literature has considered mostly from a Marxist perspective. Secondly, the emergence of the neoliberal state will be studied in an avant-gardist context, because decentralisation, rationalisation and governmentality itself seem to have been present in Switzerland before the neoliberal upheavals of the 1970s.


Rattu, P. et Véron, R. (2015). How to govern the urban hydrosocial cycle: archaeo-genealogy of hydromentalities in the Swiss urban water sector between 1850 and 1950. Geographica Helvetica, 70(1): 33-44. Doi:10.5194/gh-70-33-2015 Info
Rattu, P. (2013). Eau urbaine en Suisse romande : une histoire néolibérale ? In Pecqueur, B. et Brochet, A., Le service public d'eau potable & la fabrique des territoires. Actes du Colloque international de Grenoble. Novembre 2012.. : L'Harmattan. 143-150 Info