What Is Water?
352 pages, 6 x 9
30 b&w illustrations
Release Date:01 Jul 2010
Release Date:15 Jan 2010
Release Date:01 Jul 2010
Release Date:01 Jul 2010

What Is Water?

The History of a Modern Abstraction

UBC Press

Every water issue is a social issue. And yet, in contrast to almost every other culture, we define water in the modern West as a substance entirely devoid of social content. How is it that we have come to think of water in this way, as an abstract compound of hydrogen and oxygen, and what are the consequences?

These questions underlie Jamie Linton’s What is Water?, a history of the particular way of conceptualizing water that predominated in the twentieth century. In this wide-ranging study, Linton shows how scientific practice, the modern state, technology, and politics produced an idea of water that helped permit its manipulation and control on a vast scale, with corresponding effects on human society. That much of the world is engulfed today in what many describe as a “water crisis” suggests the need to rethink the nature of water. By reinvesting water with social content – by considering water’s social nature – Linton suggests a fresh approach to a fundamental problem.

This history of an idea whose consequences have helped produce a global crisis will be of interest to students and scholars of environmental science, water managers, and concerned citizens who want to explore fresh approaches to fundamental environmental problems.

The publication of Jamie Linton’s superb monograph, What is Water?, provides an opportunity to consider the development of relational and dialectical thought within geography and especially how this has developed around the subject of water. Alex Loftus, Department of Geography, Royal Holloway, University of London, The Geographical Journal
Linton’s message needs to be taken seriously by anyone for whom water is something more than so many molecules of H2O … it is a message that should be incorporated into both introductory and advanced courses in a number of disciplines dealing not only with water but with all natural resources. David B. Brooks, Fresh Water, Friends of the Earth, Canada, Critical Policy Studies, Vol. 4, No. 4
Linton presents the issues in impressive breadth and depth, and tells a compelling story. Recommended. Choice, I.D. Sasowsky, University of Akron
Jamie Linton’s excellent analysis fills a gap in the understanding of our conceptions of water. His critiques of the water crisis and the new paradigm of Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) are simply brilliant and long overdue. The book is easy to read for an audience new to the literature on water from a social science perspective. Olivier Graefe, University of Fribourg, Social & Cultural Geography
The book demonstrates, in a clear and concise fashion, the ways in which contemporary social relationships with water have constituted a crisis ... The subject is of fundamental importance and the author’s emphasis on the need to posit environmental concerns within a socio-natural understanding is vital. Alex Loftus, Department of Geography, University of London
Beginning a book as Jamie Linton does this one, with the claim that ‘water is what we make of it,’ is an act of provocation ... Just as a stone thrown into a lake spreads ripples outward across its surface, so Linton’s provocation sends intellectual shock waves hammering into pervasive ways of understanding and defining water, invites reflection on the ways in which people have thought about water in the past, and heightens awareness of the consequences that will flow from what we make of water in the future. from the Foreword by Graeme Wynn
Jamie Linton is an assistant professor in the Department of Geography at Queen’s University.

Foreword: Making Waves / Graeme Wynn


Part 1: Introduction

1 Fixing the Flow: The Things We Make of Water

2 Relational Dialectics: Putting Things in Fluid Terms

Part 2: The History of Modern Water

3 Intimations of Modern Water

4 From Premodern Waters to Modern Water

5 The Hydrologic Cycle(s): Scientific and Sacred

6 The Hortonian Hydrologic Cycle

7 Reading the Resource: Modern Water, the Hydrologic Cycle, and the Stat

8 Culmination: Global Water

Part 3: The Constitutional Crisis of Modern Water

9 The Constitution of Modern Water

10 Modern Water in Crisis

11 Sustaining Modern Water: The New “Global Water Regime”

Part 4: Conclusion: What Becomes of Water

12 Hydrolectics




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