Waves, Floods, Currents: The Politics and Poetics of Water in Social Movement Analysis

Matthews, Jamie. 2023. Waves, Floods, Currents: The Politics and Poetics of Water in Social Movement Analysis. Antipode: A Radical Journal of Geography, 55(6), pp. 1822-1840. ISSN 0066-4812 [Article]

Antipode - 2023 - Matthews - Waves Floods Currents The Politics and Poetics of Water in Social Movement Analysis.pdf - Published Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial.

Download (163kB) | Preview

Abstract or Description

The task of conceptualising social movements draws on a wealth of watery images, from protest waves and political currents, to imagining mobilisations as tides, ripples, cascades or high-pressure hydraulics. Called upon to analyse complex processes, these waters have a life of their own, carrying analytical implications while extending a relationship to water that is never only symbolic and is material, embodied and historical.
This article explores the ways water is ‘enrolled’ to understand movements, to advance three arguments: first, these use familiar water morphologies to naturalise particular, located understandings of political change and social form; second, they imply normative claims and ideological affinities regarding political struggle; third, this has implications for our relationship to water, echoing the abstract and alienating ‘modern water’ of capitalist world-ecology. The article considers how critical water knowledges and subjectivities, often sustained by social movement spaces, indicate possibilities of a being-otherwise with water and its meanings.

Item Type:


Identification Number (DOI):


Data Access Statement:

The small amount of original interview data that support this study are available from the corresponding author [J Matthews], upon reasonable request.


Water, Hydrosocial, Social Movement, Metaphor, Social Theory

Departments, Centres and Research Units:



31 March 2023Accepted
19 April 2023Published Online
November 2023Published

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

20 Apr 2023 15:23

Last Modified:

01 Nov 2023 10:30

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.



View statistics for this item...

Edit Record Edit Record (login required)