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The Social Life of Water

By: John Richard Wagner(Editor)

336 pages, 24 illustrations, 18 tables

Berghahn Books Ltd

Paperback | Mar 2015 | #220824 | ISBN-13: 9781782389101
Availability: Usually dispatched within 6 days Details
NHBS Price: £21.99 $28/€25 approx
Hardback | Aug 2013 | #208563 | ISBN-13: 9780857459664
Availability: Usually dispatched within 6 days Details
NHBS Price: £61.99 $79/€69 approx

About this book

The human relationship to water is fundamentally social in nature (in addition to being biological and ecological), and it is through this that we construct relations among class, gender, ethnicity, and nationality. Changes, therefore, to human/water relations are also transformative in these social relations and terms. Based on first-hand research, The Social Life of Water addresses a diverse range of contemporary conflicts and crises including the impacts of commodification, urbanization, and technology on the availability and quality of water supplies. Each case study speaks to a local set of issues but the overall perspective is global with representation from all continents. Although most chapters are informed by a sense of crisis, the primary goal of The Social Life of Water is to demonstrate the ways in which water influences all domains of social life including the economic, ecological, institutional, political, religious, and aesthetic. The issue of water as a human right from indigenous and non-indigenous perspectives is addressed, and the foundational principles and processes needed to inform equitable and sustainable approaches to water governance for the twenty-first century are outlined.

"This book fills an important niche on water related issues in anthropology by focusing on social and cultural manifestations of water management, use, and conflict [...] The organization is appropriate and effective."
– Benedict J. Colombi, American Indian Studies Program, University of Arizona


List of Figures
List of Tables
Notes on Contributors

Introduction John Richard Wagner
Part I: Commodification
Chapter 1. Contesting Equivalences: Controversies over Water and Mining in Chile and Peru Fabiana Li
Chapter 2 Dam Nation: Cubbie Station and the Waters of the Darling Veronica Strang
Chapter 3 Water and Ill-being: Displaced People and Dam-based Development in India Lyla Mehta

Part II: Water and Technology
Chapter 4 Aesthetics of a Relationship: Women and Water Nefissa Naguib
Chapter 5 La Pila de San Juan: Historic Transformations of Water as a Public Symbol in Suchitoto, El Salvador Hugo De Burgos
Chapter 6 Not so Boring: Assembling and Reassembling Groundwater Tales and Technologies from Malerkotla, Punjab Rita Brara
Chapter 7 Kenyan Landscape, Identity and Access Swathi Veeravali

Part III: Urbanization
Chapter 8 Health Challenges of Urban Poverty and Water Supply in Northern Ghana Issaka Kanton Osumanu
Chapter 9 The Risk of Water: Dengue Prevention and Control in Urban Cambodia Sarah C. Smith
Chapter 10 The Water Crisis in Ireland: The Socio-Political Contexts of Risk in Contemporary Society Liam Leonard

Part IV: Governance
Chapter 11 Fairness and the Human Right to Water: A Preliminary Cross-cultural Theory Amber Wutich, Alexandra Brewis, Sveinn Sigurdsson, Rhian Stotts, and Abigail York
Chapter 12 Indigenous Water Governance and Resistance: A Syilx Perspective Marlowe Sam and Jeannette Armstrong
Chapter 13 Bureaucratic Bricolage and Adaptive Co-management in Indonesian Irrigation Bryan Bruns
Chapter 14 Anthropological Insights into Stakeholder Participation in Water Management of the Edwards Aquifer in Texas John M. Donahue


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John Wagner is an Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia, Okanagan. He conducts research in Canada, the US, and Papua New Guinea and has published several journal articles on water governance in the Okanagan Valley. In 2007 he was lead guest editor of Customs, Commons, Property and Ecology, a special edition of Human Organization devoted to an analysis of Pacific Island customary property rights systems. Recent publications include Water and the Commons Imaginary in the Public Anthropology Forum of Current Anthropology (2012).

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