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210 × 148 × 15 mm
208 pages
106 illustrations, 77 in colour
01 Mar 2015

Water Nature and Culture Veronica Strang

Water flows centrally through human lives, hydrating our bodies and all of the organic species on which we depend; sustaining the ecosystems we inhabit; and enabling our agricultural and technological developments. Throughout human history, water’s life-giving and destructive capacities have had powerful symbolic meanings for diverse cultures and societies. Water considers our relationship with this essential element, its physical properties and the multiple effects these exert on our material activities, our emotions and our imaginations.

In religious and secular contexts, water has always been seen as a source of regenerative power, carrying life through time and space. From the healing wells of prehistoric societies, to contemporary needs for water supply and sanitation, it remains central to human health. Water has enabled the movements of people along rivers, canals and across oceans. Its forces turned the wheels of the Industrial Revolution and continue to provide the hydro-power that drives modern economies. Visions of water as an economic ‘asset’ have encouraged its enclosure and privatization, sparking major conflicts – national and community-driven – over ownership and control. Increasing pressure on freshwater resources has also created devastating environmental problems which now threaten the welfare of humans and many other species, both land-based and marine.

Water is a unique and fascinating account of water history. The first book of its kind to give a comprehensive bio-cultural view of human relationships with water, it explores cultural, material, ecological and political issues, and will appeal to all those interested in the environment and the state of the world today.

Veronica Strang is Executive Director of the Institute of Advanced Study and Professor of Anthropology at Durham University. Her previous books include The Meaning of Water (2004) and Gardening the World: Agency, Identity and the Ownership of Water (2009).


1. Water on Earth

2. Living Water

3. Imaginary Water

4. Water Journeys

5. Redirections

6. The Power of Industry

7. Engineering Utopia

8. Water Pressure



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