Maria Rusca

About me

I’m a human geographer aspiring to engage with and contribute to a politicised scholarship concerned with water and climate justice. I focus on processes through which choreographies of power and different elements of differentiation such as gender, race, sexuality and class intersect and produce uneven access to water and vulnerabilities to hydrological extremes. To contribute to a politicised scholarship I engage in interdisciplinary and intersectoral collaborations to visualize, explain and communicate inequalities in multiple ways. I also believe that strong connection and commitment to a cause comes with inspiring stories. Documentaries can connect people to others trough individual and collective stories and they are an efficient and engaging way to communicate with decision-makers. I direct and produce documentaries to tell the stories of people that are most affected by floods and droughts and inadequate services and what they do to recover or to ensure safe water for their families


My research portfolio mostly encompasses interdisciplinary studies on urban water inequalities and uneven exposure to hydrological extremes, focusing on the politics of urban waters, large water infrastructures and hydrological extremes in various geographical contexts and at different scales. I take an interdisciplinary approach and collaborate with hydrologists, modelers, water quality engineers and physical geographers to further understandings of uneven distribution of disaster risk and inequalities in access to basic services, and how these are experienced.

My second research line concerns visual methods in water research and outreach. Visual methods are becoming increasingly popular in social sciences, but are still little explored when it comes to water related studies. They are effective in complementing talk-based methods and ‘visualising’ inequalities, as they capture things that are overlooked in a text, such as gaze, body posture, gesture, tones, interactions, sound. As the photographer Salgado eloquently argued, “[before using the camera] I saw the phenomena, I saw the movements. I saw everything in front of me, but I was parallel to it. With the camera, I was inside it. […] Something was happening, I was photographing, I was part of it; I was living it from inside”.

Key publications

  • Rusca, M., dos Santos, T., Menga, F., Mirumachi, N., Schwartz, K. and Hordijk, M., (2018) Space, state-building and the hydraulic mission: Crafting the Mozambican state. Environment and Planning C: Politics and Space, p.0263774X18812171.
  • Rusca M. (2018): Visualising urban inequalities: the ethics of videography and documentary filmmaking in water research, Wires Water,
  • Rusca M., Sarpong Boakye-Ansah A., Loftus A., Ferrero G., van der Zaag, P., (2017) An interdisciplinary political ecology of drinking water quality. Exploring socio-ecological inequalities in Lilongwe’s water supply network, Geoforum Volume 84 pp. 138–146.

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