288 pages, 36 b/w illustrations
How did branded bottles of water insinuate themselves into our daily lives? Why did water become an economic good – no longer a common resource but a commercial product, in industry parlance a "fast moving consumer good," or FMCG? Plastic Water examines the processes behind this transformation. It goes beyond the usual political and environmental critiques of bottled water to investigate its multiplicity, examining a bottle of water's simultaneous existence as, among other things, a product, personal health resource, object of boycotts, and part of accumulating waste matter.
Throughout, Plastic Water focuses on the ontological dimensions of drinking bottled water – the ways in which this habit enacts new relations and meanings that may interfere with other drinking water practices. Plastic Water considers the assemblage and emergence of a mass market for water, from the invention of the polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottle in 1973 to the development of "hydration science" that accompanied the rise of jogging in the United States.
Plastic Water looks at what bottles do in the world, tracing drinking and disposal practices in three Asian cities with unreliable access to safe water: Bangkok, Chennai, and Hanoi. And it considers the possibility of ethical drinking, examining campaigns to "say no" to the bottle and promote the consumption of tap water in Canada, the United States, and Australia.
"A delightful exposition of the multiplicity of a mundane object. The authors demonstrate bottled water in all its variation, as an entity which enacts diverse global, political, commercial, environmental, and ethical contexts. Drinking water can never be the same again!"
– Steve Woolgar, Professor of Science and Technology Studies, Linköping University and Oxford University; coauthor of Mundane Governance: Ontology and Accountability
"By showing how various packaging innovations manage to reorient new flows of water and issues, Plastic Water deeply renews our understanding of markets and politics: the authors' fascinating study of the worldwide dynamics of bottled water brilliantly evidences that some of the most serious concerns rest less on classic institutional and ideological games than on the mundane material life where they take their source. As such, this book is one of the most welcome contributions to contemporary economic sociology."
– Franck Cochoy, Professor of Sociology, University Toulouse Jean-Jaurès/CERTOP, France
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Gay Hawkins is Research Professor in the Institute for Culture and Society at the University of Western Sydney. Emily Potter is Senior Lecturer in the School of Communication and Creative Arts at Deakin University, Australia. Kane Race is Associate Professor in the Department of Gender and Cultural Studies at the University of Sydney.