For Nancy Fraser (2007), one of the most important critical theorists in social sciences, justice essentially “requires social arrangements that permit all to participate as peers in social life” (20). According to her concept of justice, people cannot participate on a par with others – with equal voices – as long as economic structures and institutionalized hierarchies of cultural value deny equal opportunities for all members of the political community. Therefore, the redistribution of material resources, goods, and wealth as well as the recognition of all members as equal – while recognizing their ethnic, racial, sexual, and gender differences – are two basic aspects for social justice. Recently, Fraser conceptually enlarged her notion of justice by adding the political dimension of representation to the economic and cultural dimension of social justice. Consequently, representation raises the question of who is involved and who is excluded, not only in terms of participation processes but also in the context of establishing institutional framework and decision-making rules (Fraser, 2001, 2007). While Fraser comprehensively elaborates on different dimensions of justice, these theoretical considerations do not indicate how such claims can be reached in terms of practical implementation, especially on a local level. In such practical terms, the (re)distribution of water plays an essential role in debates over resource justice. Water is not only an important substance for almost all human activities (agriculture, industrial production, energy production, recreational activities, etc.) but a fundamental essence to sustain life itself and is considered as the most strategic natural resource of the twenty-first century (Lehn and Parodi, 2009). In past decades, traditional forms of government have been continuingly expanded and replaced by more flexible and participatory forms of governance (Demirovic´ and Walk, 2011; Newig, 2011: 485). The main player in such a governancerelated paradigm shift in the water sector was the World Water Council (WWC) comprising members from the private sector (multinational water corporations), intergovernmental organizations (UN, World Bank), governments, academic institutions and professional water associations

(Linton, 2010: 212). The integration of all parties affected, the improvement of administrative efficiency regarding complex environmental problems, and the increase of the legitimacy of decision-making processes comprise some of the aims of the environment governance doctrine. Thus, the implementation of participation processes became an essential part of this new governance architecture. By integrating all stakeholders and generating a compromise between all interests, participation – grounded in the promise of sustainability – was considered to be able to manage the (re)distribution of resources. Thus participation “is marketed as a way to establish more justice in the world and is presented as a universal value” (Barreteau et al., 2010). Is the demand for more participation, however, sufficient to reach what Fraser (2007) calls more resource justice? What are the explicit and implicit assumptions and presuppositions of the resource management approach? What are the dominant epistemologies and discursive settings in which this approach is framed? How are participation processes structured, do they extend existing power relations and how far do they contribute to reproducing them? To answer these questions, I analyse the implementation of an Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) system in the state of Ceará, Brazil, referring to Fraser’s approach of social justice informed by a political ecology perspective. In the first section I will reflect on some general assumptions of the concept of water management on a more global and abstract level. To do so, I will show that the designation of water as a ‘scarce resource’ is not a given fact but a socially produced discourse and structured entity. This dominant and westernized understanding of water excludes other non-western narratives and it is, furthermore, an essential ingredient for framing water as an economic good and the development of resource management as the dominant water policy approach. Subsequently, I will analyse some practical experiences of participation processes in water resource management on a local scale. These considerations are mainly taken from fieldwork in the state of Ceará (Brazil) between 2008 and 2009, where I participated in meetings and trainings of the Water Basin Committee of the Lower Jaguaribe River and conducted interviews with members of the committee and water users who were not involved in the participation process. Based on the empirical findings, emphasis is put on Fraser’s notions of redistribution, representation, and recognition to show that the IWRM in the state of Ceará mainly serves as an instrument to (re)produce existing power relations and prevalent inequalities instead of initiating emancipation.