Grasping Water Summer Institute Reading List

highly detailed true-color image shows the stark eastern edge of the Zambezi floodplain. To the left of the edge, water covers everything. Deep blue channels wind among green, shallowly flooded plains. To the right of the edge, the land is dry. The city of Kasane is perched confidently along the edge of the flood plain.
This highly detailed true-color image shows the stark eastern edge of the Zambezi floodplain. To the left of the edge, water covers everything. Deep blue channels wind among green, shallowly flooded plains. To the right of the edge, the land is dry. The city of Kasane is perched confidently along the edge of the flood plain. Image courtesy of NASA Earth Observatory, 2010.

By Ruth Mostern, Ann Waltner, and Kan Li

The following bibliography of book chapters and articles is the reading list that circulated to participants in the 2016 Grasping Water Summer Institute.  Each participant read as many of these items as possible before the Institute. This helped to ensure that our diverse group had some common vocabulary and a few shared points of reference. We had these works to refer to together as we embarked on a collective investigation of art, culture, society, science, and policy along the rivers of three continents over a scale of centuries.   

Creating this reading list was one of the most thrilling, instructive, and challenging tasks we faced as Institute organizers. Each applicant for participation in the Institute submitted suggestions for books, articles, websites or films, resulting in a list of 125 books and articles, 28 websites, and 15 films and videos. We spent weeks reading excerpts, discussing frameworks, and regretfully cutting extraordinary works as we developed this (still lengthy!) collection of materials. We sought to balance case studies and theoretical frameworks, to introduce all the regions, eras, and disciplines that would be represented at the Institute, to share both classics and new works, and to include some writing oriented to policy and action, some journalism, and some thoughtful interrogation of culture and history.

We are grateful to all 74 Institute applicants who shared their advice and expertise with us.  We also thank Li Kan, the Institute program assistant, who organized and categorized all the recommendations, created accurate and consistently formatted bibliographic entries for each one, prepared the final list, and assembled a collection of PDF documents for all Institute participants.

We are sharing this bibliography in this issue of Open Rivers as a starting point for readers who wish to learn more about rivers and human systems in Africa, China, and North America.


Baguma, D., J. H. Hashim, S. M. Aljunid, and W. Loiskandl. “Safe-water shortages, gender perspectives, and related challenges in developing countries: The case of Uganda.” Science of The Total Environment 442 (2013): 96-102.
[abstract: ]

Havrelock, Rachel. “My Home is Over Jordan: River as Border in Israeli and Palestinian National Mythology.” In River Jordan: The Mythology of a Dividing Line, 218-274. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2011.

McGregor, JoAnn. “Living with the River: Landscape and Memory in the Zambezi Valley, Northwest of Zimbabwe.” In Social history and African Environments, edited by William Beinart and J. McGregor, 87-106. Oxford: James Currey, 2003.

McKittrick, Meredith. “An Empire of Rivers: The Scheme to Flood the Kalahari, 1919-1945,” Journal of Southern African Studies 41:3 (2015): 485-504.

Tvedt, Terje. “Hydrology and Empire: The Nile, Water Imperialism and the Partition of Africa.” The Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History 39:2 (2011): 173-194.


Everding, Gerry. “Humans have been Changing Chinese Environment for 3,000 years: Ancient Levee System Set Stage for Massive, Dynasty-toppling Floods.” Science Daily, June 19, 2014,

Harrell, Stevan. “Intensification, Vulnerability, and Disaster in Chinese History.” A paper for the Conference on the Anthropology of Disasters, sponsored by the Yunnan Academy of Social Sciences, Kunming, Yunnan, China, 2013.

Li, Lillian M. “Managing the Rivers: Emperors as Engineers.” In Fighting Famine in North China: State, Market, and Environmental Decline, 1690s-1990s, 38-73. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2007.

Lovell, Sharron, and Tom Wang. “Watch: Who Will China’s Huge Water Transfer Project Leave Behind?” Foreign Policy, January 5, 2016.

North America and China:

Worster, Donald. “The Flow of Empire: Comparing Water Control in China and the United States.” Rachel Carson Center Perspectives 5 (2011).

North America:

Banister, Jeffrey M. “The Debut of ‘Modern Water’ in Early 20th Century Mexico City: The Xochimilco Potable Waterworks.” Journal of Historical Geography 46 (2014): 36-52.

Brummel, R.F. “Mobilizing Place: Examining Mobility, Identity, and Boundary in the Politics of Asian Carp.” Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences 5 (2015), doi: 10.1007/s13412-015-0263-7.
[abstract: ]

Halverson, Anders. Chapters 7 & 8. In An Entirely Synthetic Fish: How Rainbow Trout Beguiled America and Overran the World, 76-113. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2010.
[ ]

Jackson, Donald C, and Norris Hundley, Jr. “Privilege and Responsibility: William Mulholland and the St. Francis Dam Disaster.” California History 82, no. 3 (2004): 8-47.
[first page of PDF:]

Madrigal, A. C. “What We’ve Done to the Mississippi River: An Explainer.” The Atlantic, May 19, 2011.

McPhee, John. “Atchafalaya.” The New Yorker, February 23, 1987.


Brauman, K. A. “Hydrologic Ecosystem Services: Linking Ecohydrologic Processes to Human Well-being.” Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Water 2 (2015): 345-58.

Chakrabarty, Dipesh. “Climate and Capital: On Conjoined Histories.” Critical Inquiry 41 (2014): 1-23.
[first page: ]

Gleick, P. and M. Heberger. “Water and Conflict Events, Trends, and Analysis (2011–2012).” In The World’s Water Volume 8, edited by Peter Gleick, 159-171. Washington: Island Press, 2014.

Linton, Jamie, and Jessica Budds. “The Hydrosocial Cycle: Defining and Mobilizing a Relational-dialectical Approach to Water.” Geoforum 57 (2013): 170-80.
[abstract: ]

Vorosmarty, Charles J, Michel Meybeck and Christopher L. Pastore. “Impair-then-Repair: A Brief History & Global-Scale Hypothesis Regarding Human-Water Interactions in the Anthropocene.” Daedalus 144:3 (2015): 94-109.
[full text:]

Recommended Citation

Mostern, Ruth, Ann Waltner, and Kan Li. 2017. “Grasping Water Summer Institute Reading List.” Open Rivers: Rethinking Water, Place & Community, no. 8.


Download PDF of Grasping Water Summer Institute Reading List by Ruth Mostern, Ann Waltner, and Kan Li.