Water

Authored by: Rowan Ellis

The Routledge Handbook of Mobilities

Print publication date:  December  2013
Online publication date:  January  2014

Print ISBN: 9780415667715
eBook ISBN: 9781315857572
Adobe ISBN: 9781317934134

10.4324/9781315857572.ch25

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Abstract

It may be stating the obvious to say that water is mobile. As primordial H2O, water flows under the forces of gravity and at the behest of the earth’s geomorphology. This immutable mobility has come to symbolize all that is on the move about modern life: (post)modernity is “liquid” (Bauman, 2000). But despite possessing this ‘lively materiality’ of its own, water cannot be separated from the processes which are shaping and reshaping the dynamics, frequency, speed, and consequences of how people, ideas, and things move. Water is intimately bound up with our social relations, not just as a necessity for sustaining biological life, but because the ways we come to interact with, use, and ‘know’ water are structured by and productive of these relations. In this sense, water is hybridized with the social – it’s a socio-natural thing, the movement of which is bound up with various forms of social and spatial mobility. Accordingly, the movement of water also confers terribly unequal benefits and burdens. The absurdity of irrigated lawns and swimming pools amidst life-threatening water scarcity in cities as diverse as Los Angeles and Tripoli, or the spectacle of tanker trucks selling drinking water to slum residents whose homes are flooded by monsoon rains, testify to water’s highly uneven social and material geographies. It is clear that the experiences of water as flow or impasse, purification or contamination, deluge or trickle are highly socially differentiated.

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