Assembling commons and commodities: The Peruvian water law between ideology and materialisation

Astrid Oberborbeck Andersen
Aalborg University, Aalborg, Denmark; aoa@learning.aau.dk

ABSTRACT: The Peruvian water resources law of 2009 (Ley de Recursos Hídricos 29338) gathers contrasting – even divergent – intentions and interests; it discursively projects water to be a national common good and an economic good. The ideas behind the law connect to global currents that promote the marketisation of water rights and commodification of water services. This paper will use a historical account of water legislation in Peru as well as detailed ethnographic attention to the implementation of the water law and its infrastructure of governance in the city of Arequipa and the Quilca-Chili river basin to analyse how the law functions as an interplay between its official text and the ways state officials use it in specific encounters with users and stakeholders. Such encounters vary and have different outcomes, at times presenting openings for groups of actors to gain influence, and at other times excluding participation. A clear-cut analytical common/commodity dichotomy is of little use when trying to understand the dynamics of governance around water in present-day Arequipa and Peru. This paper suggests 'assembling' as analytic to grasp how public and private, marketised and commodified interests come together in the implementation of the law of water resources.

KEYWORDS: Water legislation, water governance, integrated water resource management, State, ethnography, Peru