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Journal of Environmental Policy & Planning
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Scaling discourse analysis: Experiences from Hermanus, South Africa and Walvis Bay, Namibia
Roger Keil a; Anne-Marie Debbané a a York University, Toronto, Canada

Online Publication Date: 01 September 2005 To cite this Article: Keil, Roger and Debbané, Anne-Marie (2005) 'Scaling discourse analysis: Experiences from Hermanus, South Africa and Walvis Bay, Namibia ', Journal of Environmental Policy & Planning, 7:3, 257 — 276 To link to this article: DOI: 10.1080/15239080500339786 URL:

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Journal of Environmental Policy & Planning Vol. 7, No. 3, September 2005, 257 –276

Scaling Discourse Analysis: Experiences From Hermanus, South Africa and Walvis Bay, Namibia1
York University, Toronto, Canada

ABSTRACT Scaling discourse analysis refers to the necessity to consider environmental discourse a multi-dimensional and diversified practice. Depending on the various levels of state and society at which environmental policies are applied and depending on the geographical scale at which their solution is sought, we have to differentiate both policy processes and outcomes in environmental politics. We introduce the importance of scale in mapping the multiple trajectories through which complex and intertwined relations of power produce and reproduce uneven geographies in the area of urban environmental policy. More specifically, we are seeking to cast light on the relationships between scale, discourse and the politics of urban environments. Using an approach influenced by urban political ecology, the relevant discourses here are constructed in a triangle of terms: urban, ecology and policy. In this triangle, there are no givens and invariables. Its three points are constituted through contested discourses and practices. We approach our analysis from an understanding of urban water policies in two municipalities Namibia and South Africa as the outcome of a discursive and material practice operating at various levels of state and society and as an integral part of wider processes of social and political change. KEY WORDS: Scale, discourse, urban environmental policy, water, Southern Africa

Introduction Earth Summit: After days of intense negotiations, leaders settle on a blueprint to keep the planet alive. From the overfishing of the oceans, to the life-or-death problem of poverty across the continents, the subjects discussed at the Earth Summit are among the biggest imaginable (The Independent, September 3, 2002). This headline effectively captures the essence of the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) that was held in Johannesburg during the last week of August in 2002. During this period, major international newspapers headlined the world’s environmental problems that threatened the very survival of the
Correspondence Address: Roger Keil, York University, 4700 Keele Street, Toronto, ON M3J 1P3, Canada. Fax: 1 416 736 5679; Tel.: 1 416 736 5252; Email:
1523-908X Print=1522-7200 Online=05=030257-20 # 2005 Taylor & Francis DOI: 10.1080=15239080500339786

most would certainly agree with a fundamental definition—clear and pristine— which Maarten Hajer has proposed for the use of discourse analysis. The forgoing forcefully illustrates how a particular discourse becomes mobilized at the global scale. this constructionist view is distinctive about the newer “post-postivist” . Kofi Annan declared that the WSSD must “set humankind on a new path that will ensure the security and survival of the planet for succeeding generations”. Fischer. 2000. The environmental policy literature is now replete with references to discourse theory (Desfor & Keil. discourse and the politics of urban environments. concepts. 1). and further reveals how “the power to proclaim globality is the power to put the world on alert from which there is no escape. 2002. Fischer & Hajer. the place at which there exists no option for disengagement” (Herod & Wright. However. It is important to note here that this understanding of discourse is linked in the field of environmental policy to the notion of a discursively constructed notion of nature (Hajer. leaders of the world mulled over how they would go about saving the planet. 2003. vesting in themselves the power to make these decisions in the name of six billion people. But. 2003). More specifically. exploitative and oppressive corporations in the world and yet a key role player at the Summit. relaying the urgency and political will displayed by world leaders to reverse this impending doom of world poverty and environmental degradation. and transformed in a particular set of practices and through which meaning is given to physical and social realities” (Hajer. He used it primarily to find out “why a particular understanding of the environmental problem at some point gains dominance and is seen as authoritative. arguably one of the most destructive. and categorizations that are produced.Downloaded By: [Queensland University of Technology] At: 10:30 20 May 2008 258 ´ R. 43). in the context of the example above. expressed in socially and materially contradictory ways. whose survival? Whose planet? What path? About one hundred leaders. As almost half of the world’s population suffers from daily starvation. 1999. Debbane planet. 1995. The analysis is approached from an understanding of urban water policies as the outcome of a discursive and material practice operating at various levels of state and society and as an integral part of wider processes of social and political change. the WSSD instantiated a political and discursive moment in which heads of state joined up with world business leaders and exerted their power to forge a global political agenda that promoted public– private partnerships as offering the most promising solutions to the world’s pressing social and environmental problems experienced at multiple geographical scales and reflecting profoundly uneven socio-ecological realities. In fact. p. While a wide range of applications of discourse analysis have come from this fertile academic field. had converged in Sandton. Rydin. Of course. while other understandings are discredited” (1995. The purpose of this paper is to introduce the importance of scale in mapping the multiple trajectories through which complex and intertwined relations of power produce and reproduce uneven geographies in the area of urban environmental policy. there are many more examples from which to draw to make this point. we are seeking to cast light on the relationships between scale.-M. one can continue to hold on to a more or less non-controversial definition of discourse as “a specific ensemble of ideas. Hajer & Wagenaar. 1995). Keil & A. 2004. p. 1995). Similarly. Hajer. and adequate housing. reproduced. 2003. lack of access to water and sanitation. South Africa’s wealthiest suburb— home of the Oppenheimer dynasty that rule over the DeBeers conglomerate.

2004). Loretta Lees (2004) has recently provided a limited2 but useful review of some discourse theoretical literature. p. While this may be too categorical and simple a distinction which disregards discursive traditions nested in political economy and materialist theory. and has had a particular significance with regard to the environment: Robert Paehlke (2000). Hajer maintains: More than before. 2002. the world comes to reflect language. . although many spokespersons for the linguistic turn identify as Marxists. . for example. various strands of constructionism. As established institutional arrangements often lack the powers to deliver the required or requested policy results on their own. In discourse theory. 18. 175). p. solutions for pressing problems cannot be found within the boundaries of sovereign polities. To speak of “discourses of nature. This protracted issue of the rescaling of sovereignty has been taken up by political scientists (Magnusson. Another central unresolved question. In recognizing the “institutional void” in the arena where environmental politics now operates in a globalized world. in fact. She briefly identifies two related sets of problems in this literature: the lack of distinction between the Marxist and Foucaultian traditions of discursive analyses. one has to look elsewhere. and the lack of methodological precision. they take part in transnational. has discussed the question of how environmental policy in one country—Canada—has been recalibrated under globalization pressures and how environmental decision-making can be “rightsized” (Paehlke. Specifically with respect to urban research. In such cases action takes place in an ‘institutional void’: there are no clear rules and norms according to which politics is to be conducted and policy measures are to be agreed upon (Hajer. we agree with these authors when they observe: “In this view.” is often identified with a post-structuralist turn in the social sciences (Castree. it is argued that rather than language reflecting the world. McMaster & Sheppard (2004b. 12). there are. 1996). see also Herod & Wright. p. with discourse theory. pp. Yet. neither of these literatures explicitly speaks to the issue of scale. during the recent cultural turn in human geography. polycentric networks of governance in which power is dispersed. which build on different understandings of what nature is and how it is constructed. 2004a)? Hajer himself has made great strides to implicitly include considerations of scale in his work on international environmental policy. . which has recently emerged in the literature on environmental policy is the following: How does the scaling of discourse analysis allow us to understand urban environmental policies as a power-laden process through which multiple narratives and their associated practices are negotiated and contested at interlocking scales? How are environmental policies simultaneously constituted by and constituted of geographical scales in ways that articulate certain political projects (Swyngedouw. the importance of certain . 147 –214) note in a recent textbook treatment of the subject: Discursive representations of scale are just beginning to emerge as a distinct theme. 2001). For that purpose. 2001b. As David Demeritt (2002) has argued in a lucid review of the constructionist literature. drawing on the more general concern. 2003.Downloaded By: [Queensland University of Technology] At: 10:30 20 May 2008 Scaling Discourse Analysis 259 studies of environmental policy of which Hajer among others is a representative (see also Desfor & Keil.

the possible and the intangible. are shaped by societal discourses” (McMaster & Sheppard. therefore. It contains the immeasurable. It is not to be confused with the local. cannot be expressed merely in terms of political boundaries (Weber). contains elements of socio-spatial reality from the body to the global. This paper discusses how this process of scaling relates to comparative cases of environmental conflict in two towns in Namibia and South Africa. but. 2003. refers to the necessity to consider environmental discourse a multi-dimensional and diversified practice. The urban. there are no givens and invariables. 2004b). p. of course. then. 1996. and the ways in which they are routinely perceived and thought about. Its three points are constituted through contested discourses and practices. For the purpose here. Castree (2000. Depending on the various levels of state and society at which environmental policies are applied and depending on the geographical scale at which their solution is sought. forthcoming for a review). the same logic applies to the term ‘urban sustainability’: it specifically does not mean local sustainability. of course. a predetermined set of collective services (Castells). 28) points to the production of nature as “a continuous process in which nature and capital co-constitute one another . It is. political and ecology—the relevant discourses are constructed in the context of this paper in a triangle of terms: urban. there is a need to differentiate both policy processes and outcomes in environmental politics. Scaling discourse analysis. competing conceptions of the societal relationships with nature. Debbane ideas and phenomena.-M. but takes a view of urban which consciously accepts its construction—in the Lefebvrian sense—as a combination of the global/universal and the individual. Water policies and politics in South Africa and a Local Agenda 21 project in Namibia were specifically studied. in addition. human and urban ecology became highly questionable applications of what essentially seemed biological concepts to social reality. (i) Following Henri Lefebvre’s (1991. The urban is constituted through social action and structural conditions that operate on a variety of scales. Schmid. Castree’s (2000) recent discussion of some of the important debates among ecological Marxists is relied upon. The urban is realized through the lived experiences of social collectives and individuals who construct their lives in a multiplicity of interconnected activities and discourses. 2005) work. 2003. (ii) Ecology is a term that has belonged to the most controversial and misused in the history of the twentieth century. The urban will always have to be understood as the conflicted outcome and site of discursive constructions that go beyond these positive determinations. In turn.Downloaded By: [Queensland University of Technology] At: 10:30 20 May 2008 260 ´ R. scales reflect back on the ways in which the world is constructed. In a slight twisting of the three constitutive elements of UPE—urban. among which this analysis prioritizes those that emanate from a political economy tradition. Keil & A. in fact. the site of the realization of everyday life. The analysis is influenced very strongly by current debates on urban political ecology (UPE) (see Keil. The main argument in this paper initially is that in this triangle. statistical analysis (most positivist urban studies). There are. the urban is constituted at an always changing level of socio-spatial action that connects the global (general) with the specific (individual). such as certain scales. ecology and policy. or the boundaries of commutersheds (Harvey) alone (to pick only some of the many different ways in which ‘the city’ has been defined in the literature). Similarly. Specifically in the wake of the Chicago School of Sociology.

Such articulation is examined through discourse and socio-ecological practices. this understanding of articulation corresponds to Benton’s important notion: “The ecological problems of any form of social and economic life would have to be theorised as the outcome of this specific structure of natural/social articulation” (Benton. What is defensible in policy formulation processes is largely a matter of relative power of actors in the policy process. for the purposes of this paper. 22). South Africa. society and economy (differentiated by various spaces. As shall be seen. 2004). compromise and conflict. policies always articulate social agendas beyond the stated objectives of their specific field. economic growth and potentially liberation (Desfor & Keil.Downloaded By: [Queensland University of Technology] At: 10:30 20 May 2008 Scaling Discourse Analysis 261 in temporally and geographically varied and contingent ways (emphasis in the original)”. a coastal town in the Western Cape. urban environmental policies made for water. which articulate nature. urban and regional political institutions. The perspective of equity is developed in terms of access to water in the black township Zwelihle in Hermanus. That is. uneven geographies and urban environmental policy. The analysis here rests on the assumption that the political economy of urban natures is a set of material and discursive practices. This is relevant as the urban has been identified as a particularly important site where the production of nature takes place in the current era. South Africa. the discourse of sustainability that frames water policies in Hermanus captures wider processes of state . p. 2000. where water has become a critical nexus in which to examine relationships of power. scales and times). society and economy relates directly to the discursive construction of the political economy of nature and hence of ecology as a socio-natural practice. This points to what is most important about the production of nature thesis in the context of this present work: it enables us to include space and scale (and the production of space and scale) as constituting dimensions of the production of nature. policy is a discursive construction. In addition. cited in Castree. It is constituted largely through the competing claims of story-lines and discourse coalitions using these story-lines to advance their political goals. Research focuses on the interaction of municipal. locally expressed economic interests and civic activism in areas of urban environmental justice and water policy. the restructuring of water policies in Hermanus illustrates how urban environmental policies are shaped by a complex web of socio-ecological relations that operate in and through multiple scales and simultaneously construct new scales of socio-ecological negotiation. Any notion of rationally or neutrally produced policies (fashioned after the device of an allegedly neutral scientific process. for example) is a sheer illusion. 31) calls for “contextualised analyses of capital – nature relationships in particular times and places as they affect different constituencies”. (iii) Like urban and ecology. This particular case study was selected as it afforded the opportunity to research what the national government has labelled a model for water management. More importantly. The Municipality of Greater Hermanus recently carried out urban water policy reforms to integrate social and ecological objectives in the provision of water services. air or soil are always also about issues such as social control. Castree (2000. First. A process-orientated understanding of relations of nature. there is the view from Hermanus. Underlying this paper are two case studies. p. On an abstract level.

transnational economic development (fishing.carleton. global appeals to sustainability (the Danish connection) and issues of post-liberation national development. literature in political ecology is relied on to introduce the relationship between scale and socio-ecological relations. tourism and salt).-M. Attention then turns to work that examines the discourses surrounding urban water policies in Hermanus. scales have been viewed as largely rigid and stable because only through increasing globalization experiences of modern existence have been extended and newly ordered. 2000. Herod & Wright. as its economy expands and population increases. Howitt. has created a new policy framework for local environmental policy. In the following section.Downloaded By: [Queensland University of Technology] At: 10:30 20 May 2008 262 ´ R. The re-scaling of urban life worlds is part of all processes of urbanization but it is perhaps the most visible characteristic of the current period of globalization. Although it is not the intention to repeat this work. Kelly. South Africa. Following Brenner. and Walvis Bay. Keil & Brenner 2003. 1999. the paper looks at municipal environmental policy in the town of Walvis polecon/scale). previously. Swyngedouw. Namibia. funded by the Danish government and administered by the Danish development company Cowi-AS. a short definition may be in order. 2000. Transnationalization itself destroys the fixity of scales of socio-spatial action and structures that contextualize this action. and social redistribution and becomes a key political strategy to articulate a national post-apartheid project. a brief overview of the main ideas and debates that have ignited so much interest in scale is in order. Secondly. Namibia. The first section of this paper examines the recent geographical literature that challenges ontologically normalized categories of scale and aims to develop an epistemology of scale that offers a more powerful analytical tool for geographical research. One of the specific policy areas affected is the delivery and management of this desert town’s water resources and the survival and protection of the local lagoon. the commodification of municipal services. global economic integration. Thinking about environmental policy in this particular town occurs in a contextual frame of reference that involves at least the following themes: local injustices (expressed in the segregated landscape of post-apartheid Walvis Bay). Marston. Debbane restructuring. A Local Agenda 21 project. 2002. neo-colonialism). 2000. and to demonstrate how the urbanization of water is embedded in scaled power relationships. 2002. The article concludes by looking back once again to the WSSD as a way of suggesting that interscalar relationships are strategically important in articulating an alternative politics of socio-ecological change. see also www. historical injustices (imperialism. the re-scaling includes also the growing simultaneity of the urban experience. Keil & A. Scales are not structured through geophysical or other seemingly unchangeable preconditions but are constantly changing products and sites of social production (Brenner. As the town grows. Geographies of Scale The terms ‘scale’ and ‘re-scaling’ have recently received much attention in social geography (Brenner. McMaster & Sheppard. Walvis Bay is faced with a number of equity and access issues related to water. local conservation discourse (the lagoon). Not only are humans and commodities brought into immediate proximity through global urbanization processes. colonialism. 1997. 2000). Not surprisingly. 2004a. As they are used here extensively. it is possible to argue that the scale . 1998.

1996. scales constitute arenas in which power is exercised to construct spaces of exclusion/inclusion and form identities. Williams. 1993. 2003. Towers. . 2003. The paper follows Erik Swyngedouw (2004a. 2000. Swyngedouw. state intervention in the national economy is downscaled either to the level of the expansionary urban regimes or upscaled to supra-national regulatory institutions such as the EU. Katz. Geographical scales thus articulate a spatial configuration of power relations through which social actors engage in a contest of power to achieve their particular political goals. 2004. instead. who has recently explained: “The mobilization of scalar narratives. For the purposes of this paper. scales are actively produced by a multiplicity of social actors as a means to organize geographical differentiation (Smith. the dismantling of national welfare regimes leading to the downscaling of public money transfers. 134). There is now wide acceptance among critical human geographers that geographical scale is not an ontologically fixed category. In the first instance. political. as well as historical dimensions (Heynen. and where divergent ideologies are expressed (Delaney & Leitner. 1997. The Politics of Scale Much interest has been generated in the politics of scale in relation to the rapidly changing geographies that have taken hold during this period of intensive economic globalization. which include the devolution of national capital – labour regulations to localized forms of wage negotiations and working conditions. p. racial. 2000). Swyngedouw. Nelson. economic and political processes through which social actors produce and reproduce scales of socio-spatial organization. Who and what state level is responsible for environmental policy. then. Smith. and scalar practices. Smith (1984) has defined the politics of scale as the social. Swyngedouw (2000) refers to the re-organization or rescaling of social regulation and power as “glocalization” where new arrangements of governance. NAFTA and the WTO. scalar politics. but in reality is accomplished through increasing authoritative power and control leading to greater political exclusion and limited democratic engagement (Cox. 2002. is a matter of constant re-negotiation among political and social actors and their discursive interventions and struggles. Through political and economic restructuring. Glocalization or the re-territorialization and de-territorialization of governance represents a scalar fix for the state that on the surface appears as the devolution of state power. 1998. the urban scale can now be grasped as a “complex materialization of capitalist social relations” (Brenner. ecological. Taylor. for example. 2000. Swyngedouw. This propels considerations of scale to the forefront of both ecological and emancipatory politics”. the politics of scale are related to the formation of environmental policies in the field of water. 2001. 2000). 1997. 1984. economic. the state has been directly implicated in enabling the extension of transnational circuits of capital (Harvey. pp. In the second instance one needs to move away from inflexible functional differentiations. 1982). 2004a. for example. 2000. 2002. Herod & Wright. cultural. Kurtz. A number of empirical investigations have shown how scaling processes also incorporate gender. Marston. 364– 365). becomes an integral part of political power struggles and strategies. 2004a). Swyngedouw. 2000).Downloaded By: [Queensland University of Technology] At: 10:30 20 May 2008 Scaling Discourse Analysis 263 question has moved into the centre of urban discourse (Brenner. 2002. of different state levels. Howitt. As a social construction.

p. It follows then. these studies demonstrate how relationships of identity. 1996). Swyngedouw. but also that scale is socially productive (Williams. scale is not an ontologically fixed category but a social construction. scales are produced through a contest of power. but a politics of scale can also become a weapon of expansion and inclusion. The production of urban water symbolically and materially embodies the intertwined social. Debbane 1999). the urbanization of water is the outcome of relations and processes of production that discursively and materially “socialize nature” (Castree. . which constitutes a politics of scale. water is diverted and travels over thousands of kilometres across the mountains of Lesotho to Johannesburg. racialized and gendered relations of power through which scaling processes of social change are mediated. stored and transformed and then circulated within a complex underground reticulated network to finally flow from our taps. represents one of the most fundamental and ingenious socio-ecological projects inscribed within a historical – geographical process through which nature is perpetually transformed (Harvey. In this sense. a relational analysis of scales focuses on understanding the social processes that construct scales. sophisticated water production systems opened new frontiers where the “natural” availability of water was no longer a barrier (Swyngedouw.Downloaded By: [Queensland University of Technology] At: 10:30 20 May 2008 264 ´ R. While in its initial stages. Four important points can be made to summarize briefly this discussion on scale. among many more. captured. and also one of the driest regions of the country. and. Swyngedouw & Heynen. Through representations of scale and scale politics. 2004. p. 114) explains. political and economic processes operating in and through multiple scales that produce and reproduce urban social life (Desfor & Keil. ecological.-M. First. As Smith (1993. multiple relations of power are embedded in processes that are constitutive of scale. Keil & A. 1996. a means of imposing identity. “By setting boundaries. Water is harnessed. 1999). a multi-phase high capacity water supply infrastructure project. 390). secondly. urbanization and the urbanization of water were determined by geo-climactic variables. scale can be constructed as a means of constraint and exclusion. Swyngedouw. 2004b). a means of enlarging identities”. place and power are encapsulated in scaling processes. fourthly. 2001a). of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project. shape social relationships with nature. intended to meet an anticipated increasing demand for water in Johannesburg. the urban and industrial heartland of South Africa. perfected through technological modernization.3 As a result of technological and engineering supremacy over water. Through a series of five dams and tunnels. transcending its survival characteristics into “the realm of commodity” (Swyngedouw. The “conquest of urban water” has thus modified social relationships with water. diverted. which began in the early 1990s. as well as the multi-directional and intersecting relationships between scales. urban water flows through reticulated networks in limitless quantities. The urbanization of water. and specifically water. 2003. Take one example. 2004b. 1996. that an adequate analysis of scale requires looking at the intersecting classed. This means that multiple forms of oppression and resistance are constitutive of scaling processes. that is. it may be useful to situate this story in a more general discussion on urban water. A Political Ecology of Water: an Approximation Before entering the narrative on the Hermanus case. thirdly. 1996. 1996.

In terms of the question of scale. in ways that inflect cultural and political meaning into social relationships with water (Haraway. both social and ecological forms of organization. 2004a). At the same time. More importantly. participant observation and on insights from interviews with key political actors and community residents. As Harvey (1996) insists. The field-work has resulted in a clear understanding of the interactions within social-ecological processes and the power lines that direct them. few have examined how urban water is constitutive of processes that construct scales. Young & Keil. At each turn in the national economy. socio-ecological projects are always political projects. he illustrates how the urbanization of water in Guayquil. Drawing on the previous discussion. 2005). and are a function of political economic interests. 2003. 1998. cited in Swyngedouw. Kaıka. sustained and resisted.Downloaded By: [Queensland University of Technology] At: 10:30 20 May 2008 Scaling Discourse Analysis 265 Young & Keil. 1991. the socio-ecological transformation of water is integral to processes that constitute and reconstitute scales. Ecuador and the modernization of the Spanish “waterscape”. oppression/exploitation. questions about control over and access to water are mediated through these scalar configurations that internalize structures of power at multiple scales along class. ¨ Recent literature in the political ecology of water (Bakker. as well as from attending public meetings. First. the deeply stratified spatial organization and regulation of water in the city was reconfigured to accommodate political economic interests at various and interrelated scales. the ruling power and scientific elite converged to institute a national water regime that disrupted existing provincial and municipal structures of water administration through the mobilization of hegemonic discourses of modernization and of ecological imperatives. inclusion/exclusion. this literature has illustrated the multiscaled dimensions and relationships through which the political and economic restructuring of urban water services takes place. media archives. Water then provides a conceptual and empirical lens through which to unearth how processes producing specific socio-ecological conditions intersect with scaling processes in ways that express a spatialized politics in which water becomes a contested terrain of political and social struggle. 1997. These relations of power operate through dialectical relationships of domination/subordination. 2005) has examined processes of political and economic restructuring of urban water policies. the relationships between scale and urban water policy discourses will be explored next through the case studies. Urban political ecology focuses this analysis on the discursive and material practices through which urban socio-ecological inequalities are historically produced. the politics of scale are examined through the discourses surrounding the policies and planning of national hydraulic projects in Spain over the course of the nineteenth century. 2003. 2004b. Swyngedouw (2004a) does provide two insightful examples where he examines the construction of scale and the politics of re-scaling through case studies on the political ecology of urban water in Guayquil. Swyngedouw. Ecuador is predicated on the re-territorialization of ecological scales and structures of political-economic power that produced uneven geographies of socio-ecological relations. racial and gender lines. 2004a. In a concerted attempt to uplift the country out of political and economic crisis. However. This rescaling of water politics was met with strong resistance from a traditional rural elite fighting to preserve a scale of water administration that facilitated their control over the existing social order. . Secondly. The case studies draw on the analysis of the discourse underpinning the programmes and policies based on reviewing central policy documents. Keil & Graham.

Access to water services in the township is mostly limited to outdoor taps and toilets. These included mainly white affluent as well as low-income black and coloured suburbs. intergovernmental transfers were slashed by 85 per cent (Beall et al. which intersect with the social. Debbane The Cases Hermanus. Department of Water Affairs and Forestry (DWAF) policy makers consider that defeating the non-payment of services can be achieved by making water more affordable to the poor. like other municipalities around the country. The GHWCP evolved through a collaboration between the municipal and national governments. Its notability has grown in recent years. historically referred to as townships. these scaled relationships and processes are part of the overall construction of the urban scale. nestled between mountains and sea. Furthermore.. 2000).-M. which then fell under one management system of the Municipality of Greater Hermanus. not only as a prime tourist destination. Secondly. macroeconomic policies (i. However. economic and political processes unfolding since South Africa’s first democratic elections in 1994. 1997). each of these suburbs managed their own water supply. Keil & A. Furthermore. While non-payment of services was a form of resistance under apartheid. Zwelihle suffers the most from the distributional inequities as a result of historical geographical processes of uneven distribution of piped water networks. in 1995. 130 km east of Cape Town.Downloaded By: [Queensland University of Technology] At: 10:30 20 May 2008 266 ´ R. First. all of which pose a threat to the sustainability of the town’s available water supply. South Africa Hermanus is a coastal town. the GHWCP was developed as a water management strategy to promote “socially just and sustainable water management practices” (Van der Linde. this persisted afterwards due to non-affordability. entailing a process of municipal amalgamation. which also improves equity in access to water. The urban water supply system in Hermanus is thus at the crossroads of having to meet increasing demand and reduce inequities in access to water within the limits of available water supply and under the pressure to balance budgets. The water debate that sparked the water conservation programme emerged amidst increasing concerns about a strained water supply system.e. whereby managing demand for water offered a proactive approach to dealing with a scarce water supply. the discursive and material practices surrounding water policies in Hermanus unfold through a myriad of interconnected scales that operate simultaneously and multi-directionally. local government boundaries were re-demarcated. economic development and an exploding international tourist industry. Growth. the Municipality of Greater Hermanus was formed to amalgamate eight suburbs. Fourthly. Thirdly.4 Prior to amalgamation. Thus. The ‘water crisis’ in Hermanus precipitated a shift in urban water management. demand for water has skyrocketed in Hermanus as the town has been experiencing rapid population growth. while white areas enjoy first-class water services. In an attempt to reconcile these issues. but also as being a national model for progressive water management with the introduction of the nationally and internationally acclaimed Greater Hermanus Water Conservation Programme (GHWCP) in late 1996. as the former black township. Employment and Redistribution (GEAR) programme) are cast in a neoliberal framework of fiscal discipline and the corporatization of municipal services. by which the ecological imperative enabled the implementation of . A national policy shift in water management away from conventional supply-side solutions required alternative solutions.

as well as to salvage the reputed success of its model water conservation programme. the municipality has long relied on the basic charge to provide a steady inflow of income regardless of whether homeowners are physically present. where it was estimated that over half of the residents were affected (Deedat et al. urging the municipality to avoid water cut-offs and to put a moratorium on evictions. roads.. with eviction notices being served. which not only destabilized local water politics but reverberated out to the scale of national government. street lighting) and suffer from exposure to environmentally noxious facilities such as sewerage treatment plants and dumping sites accurately depicts the socio-ecological inequities tainting the South African urban landscape. The pivotal factor of the GHWCP was to increase water tariffs sufficiently such that a reduction in water consumption would not erode income from water services because as one municipal official pointed out. 1997). anxious to uphold its self-proclaimed progress in improving access to water. the corporatization of municipal services. During this same period.Downloaded By: [Queensland University of Technology] At: 10:30 20 May 2008 Scaling Discourse Analysis 267 cost-effective practices. which becomes unshakeable under forceful cost recovery policies. according to levels of income. poor communities experienced massive water cut-offs due to non-payment of accounts. interview). the majority of who qualify for lower or indigent tariffs. Water services must generate enough income to sustain itself” (Theo Loubser. The situation in Hermanus where residents from formerly black townships pay the same municipal rates as wealthy fully serviced suburbs for inferior services (water. In keeping with national cost recovery policies. waste removal. Apartheid’s system of racialized planning and development firmly set the foundation. The lifeline supply is meant to provide basic access to water for all while the block tariffs play a double role by acting as an economic incentive to curb demand for water and also as a cross-subsidizing mechanism. and private sector developments with strong tendencies toward red-lining poor neighbourhoods. Senior Income Accountant. As a holiday town. which are themselves subjected to the powerful influence of globalized development discourses. In its first three years of implementation. have not had access to this subsidy and bear a deep financial burden. Consequently. electricity. the national water minister intervened.5 Several scalar considerations can be drawn to highlight how urban water politics in Hermanus are enacted through a constellation of multi-scaled processes infused with relations of power cutting across classed. Further punitive measures were taken against residents whose accounts were in arrears. storm drainage. 2001). the tariff structure of the GHWCP consists of a basic charge for water and a consumption charge which is based on a free lifeline supply followed by an eleven-step gradually increasing block tariff. Zwelihle residents. This unleashed a loud community outcry that made national headlines. racial and gender lines. which implied the universal application of water policies despite the densely spatialized socio-economic differences . These market-orientated “developmental” local government practices reflect wider political processes occurring at the national level. First. as in Zwelihle. “The municipality must be treated as a business. the GHWCP tariff structure achieved its stated goals: a 30 per cent reduction in water demand and a 20 per cent surplus in water revenue. Although the basic charge is categorized into three different tariffs. the bulk of which was generated during the peak holiday season (DWAF. the rescaling of local politics through municipal amalgamation facilitated the centralization of urban water management.

The township residents jumped scales by making their voices heard through the national press resulting in positive outcomes. yet poor township residents. Rather than localizing demand management strategies to curb unsustainable water consumption at the scale at which the problem originated. social and ecological dimensions created a political and discursive opportunity to reformulate water policies framed within the discourse of sustainability to legitimate a drastic increase in water tariffs. where the regulation of water consumption practices takes a particular form. The strain on water supply was in reality a direct result of profligate water consumption in affluent white suburbs. In Hermanus. economic. Finally. the “water crisis” created an ecological imperative that instantiated a political opportunity permitting a fundamental restructuring of the water tariff structure from one that provided domestic water services at virtually no cost to residents to one that resulted in an exponential rise in water tariffs charged to residents. It is at the scale of the household. urban water policies aimed at providing a lasting solution to the town’s restricted water supply were framed within the discourse of sustainability (or ecological modernization). Keil & A. whose consumption of water is limited to meeting basic human needs. it does not hold up to the scrutiny of poor township residents that continue to encounter historically racialized socio-ecological inequities that shape their everyday practices. disproportionately bore the brunt of the water crisis. which was made obvious by the campaign’s public advertisements that featured an image of a woman holding a paid-up municipal account. that the discursive and material contradictions of water conservation policies and the intersection of multiple relations of power become most visible. the combination of political. the community protests that erupted in Hermanus reveal the different scalar strategies utilized by township residents and the national government. and a historical geography of spatially racialized distribution of piped water. Examining the scaled processes through which urban water politics in Hermanus unfold reveals the political-economic relations and social relations of everyday practices through which uneven socio-ecological conditions are produced and . The policy was introduced in conjunction with an aggressive communication campaign that promoted water conservation strategies in order to alter wasteful consumption practices. Thirdly. the new water policy led to a re-regulation of social practices embedded in a particular set of values that operated specifically at the scale of the household.Downloaded By: [Queensland University of Technology] At: 10:30 20 May 2008 268 ´ R. On the one hand. the national government aggressively sought to contain the dispute at the local scale so as to prevent the scale stretching of community struggles to other localities experiencing similar problems. a national campaign that was aimed at reversing a “culture of non-payment” in townships invoked notions of citizenship and of nation-building to encourage the payment of municipal accounts. this campaign was indeed localized in affluent suburbs. While appealing to the ecological imperative might carry weight in affluent suburbs that profligately consume water. Debbane between poor and affluent suburbs. On the other hand.-M. This campaign was highly gendered as women in the majority of township homes bear the responsibility of ensuring access to water to the household and of paying bills. clearly recognizing where promotional campaigns would be most effective. However. the local government made concerted attempts to regulate water consumption by instilling a water conservation ethic. conversely. Thus. the problem was displaced from one scale to another. Secondly. This scalar disjuncture can be observed similarly in the way in which the reduction of water demand was assessed.

. to pollute less. the quality of drinking water for the growing urban population or the availability of enough fresh water resources for the town’s booming fishing industry. The socio-demographic pattern is clearly one of high segregation. which officially started in May 2001. Ecological modernization here refers to tangible processes of technological and procedural change that are designed to allow cities (however chaotic such a concept is in this context) to use less energy and materials. It coincided with a . a previous coloured township. Walvis Bay. Water plays a central role in this story be it through the concern for the town’s lagoon. 2002. with the town’s highest population density and its overwhelmingly African population. and to create more durable social relationships with nature (see Desfor & Keil. The former township of Kuisebmond. Characterized by the stark contrast of desert and sea. for example. Department of Water. The town has good reticulation throughout its area. Sustainable development has generally become the hegemonic discourse of development politics at various scales and this instance of LA21 politics will be treated as an ¨ ¨ expression of this general tendency (Brand & Gorg. and the run-down hostels and squatter settlements that exist in Kuisebmond. water use both in absolute terms and per capita is lowest in the poorest suburbs in the north and the east of the city and highest in the south. 2001. which is reviewed here. 2002. 2002). Walvis Bay’s socio-spatial structure is characterized by its apartheid history under South African administration in the second half of the twentieth century. Visually.Downloaded By: [Queensland University of Technology] At: 10:30 20 May 2008 Scaling Discourse Analysis 269 reproduced. Narraville. the Walvis Bay urban area has become the site of an extensive urban sustainability project based on the principles of Local Agenda 21 (LA21) (Barnard. Namib Times. Gorg & Brand. 2002). there is a stark contrast between the modern single family home and multiplex structures surrounded by green lawns in the south. 2004). through initiatives such as LA21. municipalities and urban regions have received a general framework through which they can aspire to improve local environments and to further urban growth (Low et al. although a new housing project in the area of the migrant worker hostel holds promise for the many new migrants to the area attracted by employment opportunities in the fishing industry. The Danish consulting company COWI was awarded the contract to conduct the project. The Walvis Bay LA21 project was first designed in 2000. although there are huge differences in the number of actual access points to the water system (Billawer & Ekobo. focusing on ways in which discursive and material processes regulate and organize spatial relations illuminates spaces of possibility for mobilizing a socially and ecologically just politics of water such that priority is given to equitable access to water for basic human needs ahead of hedonistic and wasteful consumption practices. Not surprisingly. Waste and Environmental Management. 2002. also has higher densities and is less wealthy than the majority white districts in the south of the municipality (Billawer & Ekobo. Walvis Bay. Silverman. 2002). Globally. still carries the traits of segregation and poverty. overseen by the Danish Cooperation for Environment and Development (Danced) (Conservation. Namibia Walvis Bay is a port town of c. is certainly part of this discourse. 2002). 37 000 on the central Atlantic coast of Namibia. In addition. 2001). The current residential zones correspond rather directly with the former apartheid structure. The case of Walvis Bay. 2000).

on the other hand. town planning. which has facilitated close daily interaction of the project team with municipal staff. 2001. 6). public participation and littering. p. This includes the responsibility to manage natural resources. the project re-casts the scales of local/urban politics/policy itself by inserting an international (Denmark through Danced. including Danced. Municipal by-laws and policies with regard to housing. meaning that it is autonomous and self-financed. For the purposes of this paper.) and a global dimension/scale (LA21 as a UN global project). among other things donated four bicycles to the project (Namib Times. the concept of a Local Agenda 21 was considered to remain an abstraction for political actors and municipal staff (Danced 2001). the LA21 project follows the levels of government as they exist in the Namibian state structure. etc. Cowi. there are disconnections and gulfs between various levels or scales of action and understanding that are connected to the divergent ideas and practices of project actors and stakeholders. despite the project’s multi-scale nature. amongst others. which. p.Downloaded By: [Queensland University of Technology] At: 10:30 20 May 2008 270 ´ R. Environmental Funds and Tariffs. the Government of Namibia. though. the development specialists from Europe and South Africa. and Local Agenda 21 Micro-Projects. The Municipality of Walvis Bay and its Council was established under the provisions of the Act as a Class One Municipality. however. Debbane national initiative to increase debate around sustainable development in Namibia (Tarr. social and cultural pressures that bring themselves to bear on it. The project itself operated in four components: Environmental policies and strategies in Walvis Bay Municipality. The municipality has a Department of Water. The project offices have been housed at the Civic Centre of Walvis Bay. environmental health. The project fits well into the existing state architecture which delegates power from the national level to local authorities to administer municipal areas. In addition. 2002). it breaks open the given understandings of the environment of Walvis Bay and the political powers that deal with it as well as the economic. 23) will be concentrated on. The inter-governmental relationships of the project are quite noteworthy. Keil & A. Walvis Bay Coastal Area Study.-M. 2002. Namibia’s statusas a new post-colonial state is crucial in this multi-scale architecture. were clearly those that attempted to alter . the local municipality. The project was mostly designed around specific technical processes in the fields of water. Among these efforts. 2002). 2000). The Coastal Area Study is certainly the most visible part of the entire project and most clearly the one with which outsiders and locals would identify with a conservation theme although actually more staff time has gone into environmental policies and strategies as well as the LA21 micro-projects. various stakeholders in the Walvis Bay community. the global level represented through the UN-driven LA21 process is highly intrusive. As in similar cases. waste and environmental management for which the Municipality and COWI would together work out joint action plans. partner city Hillerod. Project organization reflected the multi-scalar nature of its work. On the one hand. whose newly formed Environmental Management Section (EMS) spearheads the LA21 project (Municipality of Walvis Bay. are all important for the implementation of environmental management policy (Municipality of Walvis Bay. those aspects of the project that involved creating “improved awareness and responsibility for environmental issues and resource savings for citizens in the territory of Walvis Bay” (Danced. and outside experts. Waste and Environmental Management (WWE).

where there is little sign of break-through in the rather static economic and social relationships of wealthy and poor people. Environmental policies and micro-projects alike were held to adhere to the LA21 principles which.Downloaded By: [Queensland University of Technology] At: 10:30 20 May 2008 Scaling Discourse Analysis 271 the supply and demand situation for urban water and sewage services in Walvis Bay. particularly in the area of municipal services. that has some basis in the country’s segregated past. . however. Therefore. the draft environmental plan of the municipality stated accordingly: All people are entitled to the same legal rights with regard to natural resources and quality of life. multilingual staff of both project and municipal workers). To the degree. The Policy “integrates policy strategy and implementation plan elements” (Municipality of Walvis Bay. The WBLA21 project has to be viewed as an attempt to combine pre-liberation good . This danger is built into both the project design (due to its Danish origin) and into the existing municipal structure. like many of its South African counterparts. socio-economic advancement and natural resource management. What is working against the well-intentioned and highly competent project is the stark reality of postapartheid Namibia. 2002). These services have been an indicator of the best and worst in the socio-political reality of the municipality of Walvis Bay. as one project memorandum stated had to be in line with the five LA21 principles: . multi-cultural and plural make-up to the advantage of those that need socio-economic and environmental improvements most (and there are indeed many signs that this occurs. Imbalances in such rights. which. The Walvis Bay LA21 project highlights the difficulties of many development projects in establishing a sense of procedural and substantive justice. Citizens need to be actively involved in managing their shared environment (Municipality of Walvis Bay. To the degree that this project reflects ‘universal’ or ‘global’ values. displays a noticeable technocratic paternalism. This policy is the Municipality’s tool by which it pursues the goals set out by the LA21 project. it will by-pass the real needs of the people of the town. that the project attempts to work ‘on the ground’ with communities. 7). cross-sectoral approach A multi-participatory approach A long-term sustainable development view A global perspective Equity and justice (Walvis Bay Local Agenda 21 (WBLA21). . As the project planners recognized that environmental justice had to be part of the notion of sustainability they used in the project. 2002). 2002. 4). 2002. More or less explicitly the Walvis Bay project carried with it many different notions of justice and injustice that were not automatically part of the original design of the project. p. particularly of the growing African majority. another LA21 theme ‘Equity and Justice’ was added” (WBLA21. it shows signs of being able to use its multi-scale. . it became clear that a fifth LA21 principle was needed in the context. A holistic. which is also reflected in the composition of the multi-ethnic. . resources and responsibilities negatively affect household productivity. Originally the project document contained only the first four LA21 principles and “in the process of working with LA21 in Walvis Bay in the first year of the project. p. This move towards equity and justice is a definitive part of the draftintegrated environmental policy of Walvis Bay.

economic and social parameters set by national macro-goals of developments. for example. modes of ecological modernization. It has been demonstrated in this paper that the scaling of the discourse of policy making is central to these cases. This critique was countered easily. No fundamental critique of the project was launched from a justice point of view. at different rates). national environmental policies (water in South Africa. anti-privatization. (iii) discourse is not immaterial superstructure above physical nature and social structure—it is part of the construction of both nature and society (pardon the dichotomy) at various scales. anti-racist. existing and new technological expertise. Conclusions The work presented in this paper promises to lead to a few generalizable conclusions at this point. Only conservationists voiced critique of the way in which the Coastal Area Study allegedly underplayed the environmental problems associated with the lagoon. discourse must likewise be viewed as scaled. These protests constituted an eclectic group of activists involved in environmental.-M. social justice. as a way of illustrating how the discourses surrounding this epic gathering enabled the mobilization of a global political agenda of “sustainable development”. From this analysis can be drawn the point that discursive analysis needs to proceed carefully into several directions: (i) it must be sensitive to the scales at which discourses are being produced and are operative. the standards of the international development community. It is clear that the regional ecologies in each case differ widely in the way they are defined and used by various actors involved in the making of environmental policy. This paper began with a quote from a newspaper headline forecasting environmental catastrophe at a planetary scale. the regulatory mechanisms of municipal environmental institutions. were the vibrant but peaceful protests that paralleled the formal meetings unfolding in exclusive spaces reserved for the power elite. which appeared following the WSSD. as complex local situations in Hermanus and Walvis Bay are overlaid with multi-scaled problematics from the body to the global. human rights. (ii) when scale is seen as a discursive construction. anti-neoliberal globalization. they were unified in their rallying cry denouncing the corporatization of development and proclaiming that the “World was not for sale!” Behind the promising solutions and powerful rhetoric. however. local and international activities. there seems to be much consensus that it has to be addressed through municipal policy and project activities alike. modern and traditional knowledges and practices to create a viable growth strategy in the physical.Downloaded By: [Queensland University of Technology] At: 10:30 20 May 2008 272 ´ R. Debbane municipal management traditions. to name but a few. As far as the discourse of environmental justice is concerned. LA21 in Namibia). The diverse urban environments in Hermanus and Walvis Bay are constituted by multi-scaled processes between the body of individuals (using water. While their interests were highly diversified and “particularistic”. women’s rights and peasant struggles. however. the basic needs of the people in the town and suburbs and the harsh realities of nature and realities of place (such as perennial water scarcity). they argued that the WSSD was a grand spectacle to legitimize the neoliberal ideologies of the hegemonic structures . international development agencies and the global discourses of sustainability and transnational corporate actors. Keil & A. What received less attention in the papers. by the excellent scientific execution of the project and did not become a significant threat to the work of project staff.

that “[t]he priority. both theoretically and politically. Andre Brummer. Studies in Political Economy. The spatial practices and divergent discourses through which community activists and the political elite organized their activities reveal an intense struggle for power to command control over particular values and ways of seeing. it was argued that urban environmental justice movements around the world constituted a challenge to common practices and discourses of ecological modernization but that environmental justice had to be conceptualized and understood in its specific environments. 912) write. (2003) A Political Ecology of Water Privatization. never resides in a particular social or ecological geographical scale. 82. 5. & Hemson. and specifically for a critical analysis of environmental policies. it also illuminates the intersecting and multidirectional scalar relationships and configurations of power. The Walvis Bay. therefore. 4. Roger Keil thanks Robin Bloch for generous support of his research in Walvis Bay. (2000). (2000) Privatizing water: Hydropolitics in the new South Africa. for an in-depth analysis of South Africa’s water policies. . For an earlier review see Collins. the question of scale must be seriously considered for geographical investigation in general. McDonald & Pape (2003). Not only does this contest of power provide an illustration of a politics of scale. Bakker. For a fascinating account and in-depth analysis of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project see Bond (2002). pp. The paper has cultural blinders (it is very US and UK centred) and focuses on geography but seems to make claims about urban studies. Namibia section of the paper also benefited greatly from conversations with Martin Amedieck. Notes ´ 1. as Swyngedouw & Heynen (2003. Case studies on neoliberal water reforms in post-apartheid South Africa include Bakker & Hemson (2000). the community activists waging their struggles in historically and geographically specific localities exhibit a clear understanding of the “geometries of power” and the political opportunities that become available through “jumping scales”. McDonald (2002). 3 –12. 2. Ruiters (2003). in general. Limited because it reviews a very thin slice of the urban literature which deals with discourse. 2000. Moreover. South African Journal of Geography. pp. 3. 35–48. Hungiree Wilson ´ ¨ Billawer. 70(Spring). K. In a companion article (Debbane & Keil. it resides in the socio-ecological process through which particular social and environmental scales become constituted and subsequently reconstituted”. See RDSN (2000) and Bond & Ruiters (2002). 2004). Bond (2002). Coloured communities in the Western Cape Province (which includes Hermanus) are descendants of interracial relationships during the colonial era between African and Malay slaves and European settlers. D. K. p. Beall et al.Downloaded By: [Queensland University of Technology] At: 10:30 20 May 2008 Scaling Discourse Analysis 273 of power and to preserve the existing social order of ecological plundering and social injustice. In this light and as these case studies reveal. Kakujaha Kahepako and David Uushona at the Municipality of Walvis Bay. instead. But one must keep in mind. Acknowledgement Research for this paper was supported by a Faculty of Environmental Studies Small Research Grant and a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Small Research Grant. References Bakker.

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