Culture as a Fluid Interlocutor: Perspectives on Water Diplomacy from South Asia

In: The Hague Journal of Diplomacy
Medha Bisht Senior Assistant Professor, Department of International Relations, South Asian University New Delhi India

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Syed Jamil Ahmed Professor, Department of Theatre and Performance Studies, University of Dhaka Dhaka Bangladesh

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This article articulates culture in the terrain of water diplomacy. Situating the ‘local’ turn in transboundary water discourse, we argue that dialogue should be made a distinct precursor to formal processes of negotiations in South Asia. Notions of ‘culture’ and ‘community’ are revisited to examine shared ground between social/cultural anthropology and diplomacy studies. The central proposition here is that the idea of transition from political community to water community highlights the potential of culture as a fluid interlocutor. Culture, we argue, can be a non-verbal communicator not only for constituting water communities but also for giving meaning to water flowing in transboundary rivers in holistic terms. Given that these holistic ways of knowing and understanding water are not alien to ‘South Asian perspectives’, culture is offered as a transformative dialogic technique which can help rewrite the notion of community in complex geopolitical settings such as that of South Asia.

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