Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation


Arts and Sciences



First Advisor

Dr. Richard H. Schein


This project analyzes efforts to remake the relationship between water and city in São Paulo, Brazil. Currently experiencing overlapping problems of flooding, scarcity, and pollution, São Paulo illustrates the challenges of managing water in a contemporary mega-city. This dissertation subsequently considers the city’s water management through an approach that borrows from urban political ecology, social studies of science, and post-colonial urban theory. With an epistemological grounding in these literatures, this project analyzes ongoing conversations about water management in São Paulo, and focuses on how water is encountered and engaged with in the landscape by engineers, artists, and activists. This project touches on many aspects of the city’s waterscape, but its specific focus is on the management of stormwater and efforts to deal with flooding in the city, both historically as well as in the contemporary moment. By considering urban infrastructure not as a technical system for managing water but rather a deeply political intervention that ties together the social and natural landscapes of the city, this project offers a textured, critical look at the forms in which water is made legible through diverse processes of representation and engagement. Through an understanding of urbanization as a deeply political process of landscape change that folds together social and natural processes, this project argues for an approach to water management that takes seriously the relationships between inequality, infrastructure, and urban development in considering how water is governed. More specifically, it argues that the city’s water crisis is fundamentally a crisis of urban inequality and inadequate housing provisioning, which is coupled with a propensity towards large-scale, monofunctional infrastructures. São Paulo makes clear how urban inequality influences management, complicating efforts to implant necessary infrastructure and equitably distribute drinking water.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)