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The Meaning of Water

By: Veronica Strang

320 pages, Illus

Berg Publishers

Hardback | Feb 2004 | #150809 | ISBN: 185973748X
Availability: Usually dispatched within 6 days Details
NHBS Price: £58.00 $71/€65 approx

About this book

Water is the most valuable resource and the most passionately contested. Drought has become an increasingly extreme problem in many parts of the world, and it is predicted that 60 per cent of the major cities in Europe will run short of water in the next decade. In industrialized countries per capita water usage continues to rise intractably, despite strenuous efforts by environmentalists and resource managers to encourage conservation. Conflicts over water and environmental degradation from the overuse of resources are intensifying. Water is not merely a physical resource: in every cultural context it is densely encoded with social, spiritual, political and environmental meanings, and these have a powerful effect upon patterns of water use and upon the relationships between water users and suppliers. This book makes an in-depth analysis of the meanings of water and considers how they are experienced and formed at an individual and societal level. Focusing on the River Stour in Dorset, Strang draws upon a wide range of data: ethnographic research, cultural mapping, local archives and folklore. She explores the controversies surrounding water ownership and management, and the social and political questions raised by water privatization in the UK. The topical nature of these issues and their global relevance make this book a vital contribution to contemporary research on water and an essential read for anyone with an interest in getting under the surface of one of the worlds most important social and environmental issues.

'This is a significant book and should be required reading for scientists and engineers entering the wonderful world of water . It provides an important contribution to our understanding of the significance of water resources to human welfare.' Anthropolgical Forum 'Veronica Strang's book, The Meaning of Water, carries a message thatneeds to be heard by politicians and policy makers throughout the capitalist world. As the essence of all life, water is sacred, and its control by external profit-making agencies is a violation. By locating her analysis in an enthnography of water, Strang goes on to show how the inexorable drive to commodify everything that people need and useis fundamentally at odds with some of our most deeply held cultural values. Like all the best social scientific research, Strangs work points to what is most wrong, and what is most in need of change'. Kay Milton, Queen's University Belfast 'The author's plea that conflicts over water resources might be reduced by a more local and integrated apporach to their management is laudable, and the book deserves to be read by many people who would not normally read anthropology, including the employees of the major water utilities who sponsored the research' Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 'This is an elegant and engaging study of the many cross currents of meanings encoded in water. I found this delightful analysis stimulating and evocative as it offered a seamless flow between different faces and policy reflections of the varied meanings of water.' Fiona Magowan, The Australian Journal of Anthropology 'The value of the meaning of water... is in the totality of its story, which provides an interesting and throught-provoking chronicle of the many and changing influences on our connections to water.' Mark Giordano, International Water Management Institute, Sri Lanka, in 'The Geographical Journal' 'Strang's book is to be recommended for its innovative, detailed and often surprising account of water's many meanings.' Karen Bakker, University of British Colombia, in Progress in Human Geography 'The Meaning of Water is a much-needed addition to the growing field of environmental anthropology.' Dimitrios Theodossopoulous, University of Bristol, in Worldviews (10:2) 'The scope of this study is very broad, but held together by the author's skill and judicious passion for the issue at hand. The topical nature of the issues discussed, makes this book a must read for anyone with an interest in contemporary reasearch on water.' Journal fo Developing Areas


INTRODUCTION1Only Connect1An Analytic Framework3PART 1. CULTURAL LANDSCAPES8CHAPTER 1. THE STOUR VALLEY 8Times and Tides9Dorset Shires1120th Century Dorset13Social Pressure17CHAPTER 2. LOSING WATER21Changing Channels21En-Gendering Water23Enclosing Water25Reigning Over Water28The State of the Industry34Material Meanings41The Environmental Consequences45PART 2. UNDER WATER50CHAPTER 3. SENSES AND SENSIBILITIES50Experiencing Water51Hydrology and Homology62A Matter of Life and Death64Order and Disorder67CHAPTER 4. THINKING WATER 70Water on the Mind70Bodies of Water 76A Matter of Substance79PART 3. HYDROLATRY AND HYDROLOGY85CHAPTER 5. HOLY WATER85Well Beings85Water in the Church92Mixed Blessings97Healing Water102The Fountain of Knowledge103Hydrolatry Springs Eternal106CHAPTER 6. SECULAR HYDROLATRY 108The Aesthetics of Water108Walking Along Water110Gone Fishing114Messing About in Boats116CHAPTER 7. THE HYDRODYNAMICS OF ORDER119H2O119Only Natural 121Hydrology and Ecology125In the Swim129Common Currency132PART 4. OWNING WATER135CHAPTER 8. PRIVATE LIFE135Against Nature135Ecology Rules136Substantial Loss137Dammed Economics140Company Culture143Industry Issues149CHAPTER 9. GOVERNING WATER159Regulating Water159Minding the Quality161Feeling the Width164Local Governance171PART 5. MANAGING WATER175CHAPTER 10. CULTIVATING WATER175Industrial Water175Industrial Relations178Farming the Valley180Down on the Farm186CHAPTER 11. BACK TO NATURE190Green Water190English in Nature192Local Agenda197Recreating Knowledge199PART 6. CONTRA FLOWS204CHAPTER 12. WATERING THE HOUSE AND GARDEN 204Domestic Space204Material Disconnection206Wasting Away208Watering Cans and Cants215Quality and Control219A Certain Quality of Life225Bottling Out229CHAPTER 13. WATER PRESSURE233Over the River233Cash Flow233Measured Responses236Technological Fixes244Educating Water251On Message255CONCLUSION260An Uncommon Tragedy260In Solution265BIBLIOGRAPHY269

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Veronica Strang is Professor of Social Anthropology, Department of Anthropology, University of Auckland.

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