Review of: Gopakumar, Govind. 2012. Transforming Urban Water Supply in India The Role of Reform and Partnerships in Globalization (Routledge Contemporary South Asia Series). London/New York: Routledge; $140.00/£85.00 hrdbk.
Here are the introduction and conclusion:
This is a book about infrastructure. Author of Water Resources (Raju et a. 2004), Govind Gopakumar’s new book Transforming Urban Water Supplies in India is a welcome title from the Routledge Contemporary South Asia Series, especially for science and technology studies because of its empirical and analytical emphasis on what I will call here the ‘state-infrastructure’ relationship. In introducing the core topic of the book, infrastructure, Gopakumar (2012: p, 1) invites nearly every discipline to the table, from ‘engineers and technologists’, ‘historians, geographers, sociologists, and anthropologists’ to ‘urban technological historians’, ‘sociologists of utility networks’, urban geographers’ and ‘technology studies scholars.’ And rightly so; infrastructures studies are complex and complicated precisely because they defy straightforward explanation by any disciplinary jurisdiction; in infrastructure, geographic issues are political, social issues are technical, and so on. And yet, infrastructure often drifts from our conscious view as citizens. Building on Graham and Marvin’s (2001:181) works, Gopakumar shows us that infrastructures might be ‘banal constructions’ that fade into taken-for-grantedness, but they tell us a lot about the formation and consequence of their governance, especially regarding public and private partnerships to enhance or expand infrastructure and the relationship between infrastructural development and states (as well as subnational states, in India’s case). In all, the book takes an historical-comparative approach with the unit of analysis being the city. Gopakumar expertly selects three cities to compare, and the selection process appears to be based on differing relationship between the subnational state, within which the city is embedded, and the broader Indian (federal) state and variations in how each city, responding to global and federal pressures, establishes public-private partnerships thus forming urban water supply regimes.
Where does this book land on the shelf? Certainly, it is a great fit with the Routledge Contemporary South Asia Series. The book is also a more cohesive statement replete with future directions for research, which is missing in Gopakumar’s (2011, 2010a, 2010b) individual research articles on water infrastructure. Patrick Carroll’s (2011) recent work on water infrastructure in California pairs nicely with where Gopakumar (2011) is going in his recent and future research wherein he more explicitly conceptualizes states, stateness, and governmentality, unsurprisingly, using some of Carroll’s (2006) previous research as a touch point and some of my work regarding an actor-network model of states (Passoth and Rowland 2010). In closing, Govind’s book is somewhat bigger than it appears; literally, as the book is only 176 pages long, but also theoretically and empirically because the long-term potential of studying state-infrastructure relations seems so promising.