People at the Well

Kinds, Usages and Meanings of Water in a Global Perspective

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Bibliografische Daten
ISBN/EAN: 9783593396101
Sprache: Englisch
Umfang: 316 S., ca. 80, größtenteils farbige Abbildungen
Auflage: 1. Auflage 2012
Einband: Paperback


InhaltsangabeContents Preface7 Introduction Karlheinz Cless and Hans Peter Hahn9 Water as substance and meaning: Anthropological perspectives Hans Peter Hahn23 Virtual water and water footprints: Global supply and production chains and their impacts on freshwater resources Simon Meissner44 What is water? Some philosophical considerations Klaus Ruthenberg65 An essay on dew Jens Soentgen79 People at the well: Experiences around water Karlheinz Cless98 Water magic Richard Wilk126 Consumption and production: Changing perceptions of water in northern Ghana Wolfram Laube145 Neglecting the opportunity? Productive water uses for small income generation Irit Eguavoen170 Water makes the difference: The case of South India Bettina Weiz190 Making connections: Accessing water in Mumbai's settlements Nikhil Anand217 Water in Amazonia Klaus Hilbert232 Water management by divine benevolence along the River Nile: Artificial water reservoirs as pastoral meeting places in the Meroitic Sudan (ca. 350 B.C. to 350 A.D.) Petra Weschenfelder246 Water beliefs and changing times in Nigeria Emmanuel M. Akpabio266 Guarded by the devil: The fear of pollution from wells among the Iraqw of northern Tanzania AnneChristina AchterbergBoness281 Figure and Table Credits299 Notes on Contributors303 Index of Persons and Subjects307 Index of Locations315


Hans Peter Hahn ist Professor am Institut für Ethnologie der Universität Frankfurt am Main, Karlheinz Cless, Dr. rer. oec., ist dort Doktorand. Jens Soentgen, Dr. phil., ist wissenschaftlicher Leiter am Wissenschaftszentrum Umwelt der Universität Augsburg.


Water is a renewable resource, which occurs everywhere on earth, and in many places even in abundance. In its clean and humanly safe and usable form, however, it is becoming increasingly scarce. Water is not always available in sufficient quantity or quality at the right time and to all people. Dirty water and a lack of water are considered responsible for the death of millions of people, primarily children and adults in economically disadvantaged situations and regions. Concerns around the increasing pollution of drinking water, acute problems of supply and droughts threatening agriculture and sometimes leading to famine have sensitized the public around the world to the extraordinary value of this precious resource. The aim of this book is to point out the value, importance and meanings of water. At the same time it is meant as a contribution to a better understanding of valuations of water, its many uses and conflicts concerning access to this precious substance. Questions concerning which use of water receives priority, which value is attributed to the resource and, more generally, how water is perceived will be dealt with using case studies from around the world. The common starting point for these studies is the assumption that water is subject to multiple, often contradictory valuations. Any perspective which reduces water to a problem of supply or to questions of value and price will fall short of understanding the social and cultural valuations of water. Equally problematic is the reduction of water to being just a carrier of meanings, religious convictions or symbols and rituals, which would involve an exclusively culturalistic argumentation. Water is more than either of these approaches. It always represents both the need to use water and the desire to view it as meaningful or even holy. Both contexts are connected and intertwined and can only be disclosed and discovered through detailed studies of specific cases. There is no life without water. All life has its origin in water, and many myths dealing with the creation of the world have life come into existence from water. This is true also in a scientific perspective, as the origin of the biosphere on planet earth can only be explained with reference to the particular attributes of water. It is therefore no surprise that the appropriate uses of water, the right, i.e. socially accepted dealings and its related meanings are always culturally grounded. Each culture has conflicts and processes of negotiations about legitimate uses relative to inappropriate uses. Water is not only the foundation of life. It also gives structure to societies and cultures, as well as defining, in various ways, the rhythm of everyday life and rituals. Water is full of contradictions What is water and how can we comprehend it? On an initial level this is a question of water as a natural substance. But even on the level of material description it is obvious that water is hardly ever just H2O. Water is a complex material with unusual and sometimes extraordinary characteristics, for example, concerning its behavior at various temperatures. Therefore it requires an assessment from a phenomenological perspective, including the macroscopic level of perceptions. The history of research on water and its characteristics is central to the development of the modern natural sciences, and in particular for the history of the science of materials (Stoffwissenschaften) (Needham 2010; Ball 2010). In his contribution to this book, Klaus Ruthenberg describes the discovery of the structure of water more in detail. He develops his argument that the characteristics of water cannot only be discovered analytically, i.e. on the atomic and molecular levels. Rather, there are numerous essential characteristics, like color, viscosity, capacity and absorption of temperature, which are only observable on the macro level. Chemical analysis as such is insufficient to understand even the most basi