Colonizing the rains: Disentangling more-than-human technopolitics of drought protection in the archive

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Preoccupations for the widening gap between irrigated and rainfed areas are central to debates addressing the agrarian crisis in semi-arid India. Yet policies are driven by a catch-up mentality that points towards an irrigated model of agriculture, demarcating rainfed areas as spaces of rural marginality. To unpack the historical causes behind this ‘irrigation at all costs’ mindset, the paper traces how the rainfed/irrigated gap became constituted through policies of drought-protection during British colonial time. Focussing on the Bombay Deccan after the establishment of the British Raj, it frames drought-protection as a more-than-human technopolitics to explore the performative power of technopolitical practices to bring water worlds into being.

Through a critical reading of the colonial archive, we trace the ontological work of drought-protection as a practice that rearranged existing human-water relations to materialize a reality of water ‘as irrigation’. Grounded on linear and predictable flows, this irrigated ontology divided the landscape along an irrigated-as-protected and rainfed-as-unprotected logic. Encountering a world that followed geographies of water ‘as precipitation’ however created sites of contestation blurring the partition envisioned by engineering plans. Rather than the imposition of hydrological power from above, colonizing the rains represents a contested project whereby certain water worlds became present and real while others discarded and less real. Contributing to scholarship shaking the ontological ground underneath water management regimes, we suggest a reflexive turn for these practices, as they must confront their power to materialize (water) realities and the possibility to enact a decolonial technopolitics beyond water’s liquid form.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)12-24
Number of pages13
Early online date27 Jul 2022
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2022


  • India
  • More-than-human
  • Ontologies
  • Rainfed agriculture
  • Technopolitics
  • Water


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