- Outreach & Teaching
Water, water everywhere. The human sciences have become animated by the politics, ethics and materiality of water of late and for good reason. Our guest (11:13) on this week’s Cultures of Energy podcast was one of the first to get this conversation started. Anthropologist Veronica Strang, currently Executive Director of the Institute for Advanced Study at Durham University, is the author of The Meaning of Water (Oxford, 2004) and Water: Culture and Nature (Reaktion, 2015) and a recipient of UNESCO’s International Water Prize. We talk about how the transgressive and transformative properties of water cut across cultures and how its material liquidity complicates our cultural and legal understandings of ownership and property. Veronica explains why we have to think water across scales, from its mediation of individual bodies to how its flows form communities. We talk about the infamous case of Bolivia’s water privatization, efforts to enclose water resources across the world and how contemporary politics of water are undermining democracy. Veronica also reminds us though that efforts to centralize control over water are ancient and that the movements that are now seeking to decentralize water resources also have hope. In closing we discuss cosmological and mythological water beings ranging from rainbow serpents to Chinese water dragons to the Lambton Worm, reputed to live in Durham’s own River Wear. Is our concern with hydration and floods these days informed by the moral economy and sacred vitality of water? Has urbanization caused us to lose touch with the hydrological cycle that so powerfully informed the cultural imaginations of our ancestors? Pour yourself a glass of water and listen on.