Social Head-Enders: Access and Authority in Irrigation Governance

Adnan Mirhanoğlu*, Maarten Loopmans, Gül Özerol

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)
123 Downloads (Pure)


Inequalities in access are a major concern for the management of common pool resources. In the case of irrigation water, inequalities are often explained by spatial “head-ender/tail-ender” distinctions, determined by distance to the water source. However, inequalities in access are also produced by social relations and social institutions. Drawing from ethnographic research in Ağlasun, a rural town in the south-west of Turkey, we examine socio-spatial inequalities vis-à-vis water access in a small-scale, locally managed irrigation system. Our findings demonstrate that spatial “head-ender/tail-ender” differences in the irrigation system intersect with social relations. By introducing the concept of “social head-enders,” we emphasize how social and political relations may introduce a complementary asymmetry in access to water between farmers. Analyzing the socio-spatial dynamics in such asymmetric systems allows us to further explore the interaction between access and authority. This leads us to illustrate important conditions for more equitable and democratic local irrigation governance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)185-203
Number of pages19
JournalSociety and Natural Resources
Issue number2
Early online date13 Dec 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2022


  • Access theory
  • authority
  • common pool resources
  • irrigation governance
  • power
  • social head-enders
  • Turkey
  • 22/1 OA procedure


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