8. Jul 2021 - 9. Jul 2021 | Max-Weber-Kolleg

Accessing Water in the South Asian City

Event type
public with registration

International workshop with exhibition at the Max Weber Kolleg, organised by Dr Sara Keller.

Water is a revealing element of urbanity, and the Indian city a glaring example of the prominence of water issues in space making and social organisation. Looking at the South Asian city in a broad geographical and historical scale, the workshop aims to determine the role played by urban socio-religious constructs in the shaping of a rich, complex, sometimes problematic, waterscape.

The access to water is a determining factor of urbanisation, and this is more strongly felt in regions prone to aridity and irregular rainfalls. In India, recent water crisis of summer 2019 and 2020 confirm the emergency of the situation and the extreme fragility of certain social groups. Against this dramatic situation, the workshop proposes to look at water(s) and water availability in the broader context of Indian urbanity. It addresses, beyond limiting material and infrastructural arguments, the human and social forces at work. In particular, the workshop aims to look at the religious and social dynamics that shaped the urban waterscape and thus participated to the formation of the materiality of the city, from ancient times to present. How did the sacred dimension of water impact urbanisation processes such as city foundation and urban sacred geography? Reciprocally, how did the urban way of life shape and transform water environments and the hydro-architecture? How did religious precepts and practices determine a graded relationship and access to water? Acknowledging the past socio-religious patterns and their resurgences shall help rethinking today’s management of hydro-space and reinventing a relationship with water in the South Asian urban context.

Concept note, panels description and abstracts: https://miwa.hypotheses.org/2021workshop

The conference is part of the DFG-funded Humanities Centre for Advanced Studies “Religion and Urbanity: Reciprocal Formations” (FOR 2779), based at the Max Weber Centre for Advanced Cultural and Social Studies of the University of Erfurt, Germany.

Venue and Registration
Augustinerkloster, Augustinerstraße 10, 99084 Erfurt, Germany.

Registration: Sessions marked with an asterisk * (Keynote address on Thursday 9 to 10.30, and the whole Friday program) can be attended remotely upon registration via urbrel-conf@uni-erfurt.de

Exhibition "India. Life on the water" 07.07 - 08.08.2021
Location: Augustinerkloster, Erfurt. Further details on the above given link.

The scheduled face-to-face format is subject to short-term sanitary imperatives, with option of shifting to hybrid or complete online mode. Updates on miwa.hypotheses.org/2021workshop




  • Akil Amiraly: “From the tap to the cistern, the difficult reappropriation of an ancient technical knowledge: Rainwater harvesting in Ahmedabad”
  • Julia Hegewald: “Dependency on Water and the South Asian City: Questions of Location, Urban Planning and Architectural Design”
  • Jutta Jain-Neubauer: “Urbanization and Waterscapes: Patronage, Power and Religion in pre-modern Northern and Western India”
  • Padma Sunder Joshi: “Peeping into the Traditional Water Wisdom in Nepal Mandal”
  • Sara Keller: “Releasing temple gold. Spatial fix in medieval Saurashtra through water epigraphy”
  • Vrushti Mawani: “Discursive co-articulations of ‘being illegal’ and ‘being Muslim’”
  • Nicolas Morelle: “Water supply in Deccan Forts of India: the Naldurg case (14th-17th century)”
  • Heather O’Leary: “The Moral Construction of the Hydro-Social Subject: Water exchange and conduits of purity in contemporary Delhi”
  • Bertrand Sajaloli and Etienne Grésillon: “Water and the sacred: which spatial mediations?”
  • Yogesh Sharma: “Accessibility to water sources in urban centres in pre-modern India”
  • Julia Shaw: “Cities, land and water in early-historic South Asia: upland-lowland interactions, and monastic versus state-level governmentalities”
  • Prakhar Vidyarthi: “Water and Urbanism in Western India: The Navnath temples of Vadodara”
  • Laura Verdelli: “Customary water management systems and contemporary territorial changes in Tamil Nadu (India)”

From 16:00 onwards | Registration & Exhibition visit

9:00 – 9:15 | Welcome note by Sara Keller*
9:15 – 10:30 | Keynote address by Bertrand Sajaloli on “Water and the sacred: which spatial mediations?" (joint contribution by Bertrand Sajaloli and Etienne Grésillon). Presentation followed by discussion.*

10:30 – 11:00 | Tea break

11:00 – 12:15 | Group work on Panel I: Inconsistent resources. Water as a determining factor of urbanity
12:15 – 13:30 | Group work on Panel II: Providing access. Religion as agent of water availability / Infrastructural solutions and their limitations

13:30 – 14:45 | Lunch

14:45 – 16:00 | Group work on Panel III: Restricting access. Cultural and normative deficiencies / Impact of social and religious context

16:00 – 16:30 | Tea break
16:30– 19:00 | Excursion at the Petersberg and its medieval water system
19:30 | Dinner at Augustinerkloster

FRIDAY, 09 JULY 2021

9:00 – 10:00 | Short presentation of the papers*
10:00 – 11:00 | Presentation of group work results*

11:00 – 11:30 | Tea break

11:30 – 12:15 | Discussion 1: Sources and methodology*
Chair: Susanne Rau
12:15 – 13:00 | Discussion 2: Themes: overlapping, gaps, perspectives.*
Chair: Martin Fuchs

13:00 – 14:00 | Lunch

14:00 | Excursion at Eisenach. Presentation on Water Supply in Eisenach and the Wartburg by Susanne Rau and Sara Keller.


Junior Fellow
(Max Weber Centre for Advanced Cultural and Social Studies)
Max-Weber-Kolleg (Steinplatz 2) / Raum 409 (3. OG)