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Everywhere in the world communities and nations organize themselves in relation to water. We divert water from rivers, lakes, and aquifers to our homes, workplaces, irrigation canals, and hydro-generating stations. We use it for bathing, swimming, recreation, and it functions as a symbol of purity in ritual performances. In order to facilitate and manage our relationship with water, we develop institutions, technologies, and cultural practices entirely devoted to its appropriation and distribution, and through these institutions we construct relations of class, gender, ethnicity, and nationality. Relying on first-hand ethnographic research, the contributors to this volume examine the social life of water in diverse settings and explore the impacts of commodification, urbanization, and technology on the availability and quality of water supplies. Each case study speaks to a local set of issues, but the overall perspective is global, with representation from all continents. John R. Wagner is an Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia, Okanagan. He conducts research in Canada, the United States and Papua New Guinea and has published several journal articles on water governance in the Okanagan Valley. In 2007 he was lead guest editor of Customs, Commons, Property and Ecology, a special edition of Human Organization devoted to an analysis of Pacific Island customary property rights systems. Recent publications include "Water and the Commons Imaginary" in the Public Anthropology Forum of Current Anthropology (2012).
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