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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Relations of power, networks of water : governing urban waters, spaces, and populations in (post)colonial Jakarta Kooy, Michelle Élan


This thesis documents the genealogy of the development of Jakarta’s urban water supply infrastructure from 1873 (the inception of the first colonial water supply network) to the present. Using an analytical framework of governmentality, supplemented by insights from postcolonial studies and political ecology, the thesis explains the highly unequal patterns of water access in Jakarta as the product of (post)colonial governmentalities, whose relations of power are expressed not only through discursive categories and socio-economic relations, but also through material infrastructures and urban spaces. The thesis presents material from the colonial archives, Jakarta’s municipal archives, and the publications of international development agencies and engineering consultancy firms. This is combined with primary data derived from interviews, questionnaires, and participant observation of the implementation of current pro-poor water supply projects in Jakarta. This data is used to document how water supply is implicated in the discursive and material production of the city and its citizens, and to challenge conventional developmentalist and academic analyses of water supply access. Specifically, a conceptual triad of water, space, and populations – produced through, but also productive of government rationalities – is used to explain two apparent paradoxes: (1) the fragmentation of access in Jakarta despite a century of concerted attempts to develop a centralized system; and (2) the preferences of lower-income households for non-networked water supply, despite its higher cost per unit volume. This analysis hinges on an elucidation of the relationships between urban governance and urban infrastructure, which documents the interrelated process of differentiation of types of water supply, water use practices, populations, and urban spaces from the colonial period to the present. This, in turn, is used to explain the barriers being encountered in current pro-poor water supply development projects in Jakarta. The thesis thus makes a contribution to current academic debates over the ‘colonial present’. The contribution is both theoretical – in the emphasis placed upon the materiality of governmentality – and empirical. Finally, the thesis also makes a contribution to the urban and development studies literatures through its reinterpretation of the urban ‘water crisis’.

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