The intake structure of the Pacchipucro mamanteo of Huamantanga (Source: Lena Hommes, 2014).
Whose Past? Reflections on the Recuperation of Ancestral Water Structures in Peru


  • Lena Hommes Water Resources Management Group, Wageningen University, Riverhood Project




Efforts to shape more sustainable and just land and water management practices are increasingly turning to the past for inspiration. However, what the past looked like exactly and what can be learned from it and applied to present-day challenges is not straightforward. Peru is one of those places where reviving ancestral land and water management practices and knowledge has become popular. This article starts with a project that aimed to recuperate ancestral water infiltration structures in the Peruvian highlands. Drawing on interviews conducted shortly after the project’s implementation, the author analyses how history and “the past” are imagined differently by various actors, according to their current worldviews, interests and values. The author unpacks the consequences of these diverse pasts for present-day relations and project implementation, calling attention to the importance of making explicit the “politics of the past,” including how the past is portrayed and by whom, and which past is to be recuperated or revalorized.

How to Cite

Hommes, L. (2023). Whose Past? Reflections on the Recuperation of Ancestral Water Structures in Peru. Blue Papers, 2(2).





challenges, concepts and new approaches

Author Biography

Lena Hommes, Water Resources Management Group, Wageningen University, Riverhood Project

Lena Hommes is a lecturer and researcher interested in water governance, political ecology, environmental justice and the politics of hydraulic infrastructure in Europe and Latin America. After finishing her master’s degree in international land and water management, she worked for several years in the drinking water and sanitation sector in Peru. In 2019 she returned to Wageningen University, where she is currently a lecturer in the Water Resources Management Group, and a postdoc researcher with the multi-disciplinary research projects Riverhood and River Commons. In 2022 she received the distinction cum laude for her PhD thesis, “Infrastructure Lives: Water, Territories and Transformations in Turkey, Peru and Spain,” in which she analyzes how modern hydraulic infrastructures such as dams, hydropower plants and water transfers transform territories in diverse and unforeseen ways. Lena continues to study these issues, but also focuses on understanding upcoming alternative trends in water governance (such as dam removal and the rights of nature) and the discussions, conflicts and outcomes they trigger.


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