Hussam Hussein

University of East Anglia

Senior Researcher


LinkedIn profile: 

Supervisors: Prof. Mark Zeitoun; Dr. Adriana Sinclair; Dr. Simon Curtis.

Info on PhD:

Hussam's PhD thesis is titled "An analysis of the discourse of water scarcity and hydropolitical dynamics in the case of Jordan".

The abstract of the thesis is:

This thesis investigates the construction of the discourse of water scarcity in Jordan. First, it identifies the actors constructing the discourse, their interests, and the elements comprising the discourse. Second, it examines the effects of the deployment of the discourse of water scarcity on policy-options, analysing the solutions opened and closed by the discourse in the national water strategy. Third, it explores the effects of the deployment of the discourse on transboundary water governance, as well as what other factors shape Jordanian-Syrian, Jordanian-Israeli, and Jordanian-Saudi hydropolitical relations.

The study is important and makes an original empirical contribution because while the issue of water scarcity in Jordan has been widely researched, it has been done mainly from an engineering perspective, the discourse of water scarcity has been taken for granted, and studies on an in depth discursive analysis of the issue of water scarcity in Jordan are still missing. Moreover, a study on the relation between the deployment of the discourse of water scarcity and transboundary water governance in the case of Jordan is still lacking. Research undertaken in other contexts on this topic shows that discourses are being deployed to sanction and open certain solutions rather than others. It also shows that policies are designed and implemented in line with dominant discourses.

The main methods of data collection are documentation - including reports, academic articles, and newspapers - as well as semi-structured interviews with relevant individuals involved in the construction and reproduction of the discourse. Interviews are deployed also to collect data on the transboundary water governance and bilateral relations. The data are analysed through Fairclough’s theoretical framework of critical discourse analysis, which applied to this case study represents a methodological contribution to knowledge. 

The study finds that there is a single dominant discourse of water scarcity, which is composed of two narratives: water insufficiency and water mismanagement. The water insufficiency narrative is constructed to emphasise factors external to the responsibility of the Jordanian government as reasons for water scarcity, like nature, refugees, and neighbouring countries. It is mainly constructed by governmental oriented actors and deployed to open solutions on the supply and conservation sides and ultimately to maintain the status quo of the current water uses. The water mismanagement narrative is constructed to emphasise as reasons for water scarcity factors of mismanagement of water resources, and deployed to increase economic efficiency in the water sector. The actors behind this narrative are mainly donors and international organisations. The water mismanagement narrative is deployed to open mainly demand oriented policies and solutions on the conservation side, ultimately challenging the status quo of the current water uses. However, the water mismanagement narrative is not dominant, and therefore does not have a major impact on the policies. The results suggest that the dominant and mainstream narrative is water insufficiency and the most prominent solutions that this narrative opens are on the supply side and particularly of transboundary nature: the Disi and the Red Sea Dead Sea Canal projects. By highlighting how the discourse is constructed and deployed to shape solutions and policies, the study shows the relevance of including a discursive analysis of the national dominant narrative into the analysis of water policies and transboundary water governance. This study is important because it shows the effects of discourses on policies and hydropolitical relations.

Research Interests
Transboundary Water Governance, Water Security, Climate Change Discourses

Thesis's Supervisor
Dr Mark Zeitoun; Dr Adriana Sinclair; Dr Yvan Guichaoua


- Hussam Hussein and M. Grandi (2017), “Dynamic political contexts and power asymmetries: the cases of the Blue Nile and the Yarmouk Rivers”, International Environmental Agreements: Politics, Law, and Economics 

- Hussam Hussein (2017): “Land and hydropolitics in the Nile River Basin: challenges and new investments”,  edited by Emil Sandström, Anders Jägerskog, and Terje Oestigaard, Routledge, Abingdon, UK, 2016, xv + 225 pp., ISBN 9781138921757 (hardback), ISBN 9781315686172 (ebook), International Journal of Water Resources Development


Contact information


Postal Address
University of East Anglia, SSF, DEV, Norwich Research Park, Norwich, NR4 7TJ, UK