The Performance of Water Governance as Cultural Heritage in Peru

Nicholson-Sanz, Michelle (2020) The Performance of Water Governance as Cultural Heritage in Peru. Contemporary Theatre Review, 30 (4). pp. 509-524. ISSN Print ISSN 1048-6801 Online ISSN 1477-2264


In this article, I apply performance theory and analysis to the examination of a performative community-based water governance system in the Peruvian Andes. I weave together performance studies and natural resource governance practice through Jacques Derrida’s concept of iterability – the inherent capacity of an iteration to be deciphered and re-iterated beyond its immediate, present context. I ask what idea and what practice of natural resource governance are enabled through the performative iterations of a rural community’s ancient ritualised relationship with water. I focus my analysis on the town of Corongo, in Northern Peru, and its water management system, whose heritage status was globally recognised through its inclusion on UNESCO’s 2017 Representative List of Intangible Heritage of Humanity. This analysis leads me to a wider consideration of some of the types of contributions that performance studies can make to environmental political theory and environmental policy making as well as to political and critical discussions about how to transition towards more environmentally sustainable societies. I argue that ritual performance is the language with which Coronguinos (people from Corongo) carry out water governance at a local level and the means by which they produce and transfer a consciousness of themselves as a water heritage community. Performance operates in Corongo by means of an ancient chain of restored behaviours, structuring Coronguinos’ lived relationship with their natural environment as well as shaping their awareness of the key role that embodied, performative water governance plays in the definition of their cultural identity and heritage.


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