‘Saving' water –
on water practices, management and hierarchies in a Sahrawi camp

As part of my master’s degree, I am currently preparing a research project on the politics of water distribution in Sahrawi refugee camps near Tindouf, Algeria. I am interested in the camp’s management and daily practices of water provision. Water scarcity in this region is severe and the quality of water poor. Since the camps do not have an independent water infrastructure, water is supplied through humanitarian aid trucks provided by the UN. Despite being widely selforganized, the Sahrawi people highly depend on the UN and other organisations to secure their basic needs. As a result, hierarchies and inequalities in accessing water have emerged. Using a materialist approach, I want to learn about camp residents’ management and daily practices of ‘saving’ water by “following the water”. I will use ethnographic methods, such as interviews and participant observation, to reveal the power dynamics inherent in practices of supplying and sharing water.

The concept of ‘saving water’ is twofold: On the one hand, saving water relates to the local practices of ‘saving’ water and the knowledge involved in preserving it. On the other hand, ‘saving’ water reflects the essential role of humanitarian aid in enabling life by providing this ‘life-saving’ substance.

The research will be conducted in two phases between 2022 and 2023 and lay the empirical groundwork for my MA thesis.

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