Water is the main constituent of the human body; it permeates all realms of human life, and its cyclical behaviour shapes both society and ecology. And now more than ever water is the subject of intense academic and policy interest, due not least to increasingly urgent concerns about scarcity, unpredictability, and escalating demand, as well as pressing challenges around pollution, human rights, and sustainability.
Water problems are often seen as technical issues, subject to rationalization, optimization, and best addressed by expert knowledge. Yet, in the past three decades water issues have proved to be highly divisive and have generated heated debates, considerable conflict, and security worries. Infrastructure-centred approaches have been challenged or matched by anxieties regarding the role of social organization, institutions, power structures and, more generally, politics. Economists have assumed an increasingly prominent role in stressing the significance of demand management and economic efficiency. Environmentalists have been active in introducing a more holistic view of ecosystems, emphasizing the importance of water for the environment and human health. Social activists have argued for the need to depict access to water as a human right, while many sociologists have called for more careful consideration of the equity impacts of water distribution and management. Meanwhile, historians have elucidated the role of water in nation-building and agricultural and industrial revolutions; and geographers have highlighted the role of water in uneven development. Anthropologists have described the multiple cultural meanings of water and deconstructed idealized notions of ‘traditional’ water management.
To help make some sense of these dizzyingly complex issues and diverse approaches, in four volumes this new Routledge collection brings together canonical and the very best cutting-edge research from critical water studies. The collection is organized around key themes and brings into creative juxtaposition major works from a variety of disciplinary, regional, and temporal perspectives. It makes readily available to a wide range of users―particularly those in developing countries―materials that can sometimes be very difficult to access.
The editors’ new introductions to each volume delineate and characterize the field of critical water studies, providing a structure with which curricula for courses in this subject can be framed, and on which new research can be grounded. Indeed, for tutors, researchers, and advanced students, as well as policy-makers, the collection is certain to be recognized as an indispensable one-stop research and pedagogic resource.
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