This panel discusses the relations between humans and water, and how the precious vitality of water is constituted, negotiated and strategically used.
Human life is both literally and metaphorically unthinkable without water, which permeates and enlivens every form of human activity. Water is equally important for all living organisms, flowing through plants, animals and humans, through places, river systems and ocean currents, and through the entire hydrological cycle, where it constitutes a fundamental aspect of the weather and climate. For many people water epitomises the connections and integration of living processes: as the life-giving element enabling production and reproduction, and as a substance of community and belonging. However, the fluid qualities that enable water to connect mean that it can also be a major medium for pollution and a threat when overly abundant. And, being essential to all productive processes, it can readily become a means of control and domination. This panel explores the ways the vitality of water is constituted, negotiated and used strategically in various socio-ecological contexts. How does water figure in experiences, narratives and symbols of living, creativity and healing, or in practices and discourses about pollution and destruction? In what ways can water be used to support or undermine particular power relations? How are ideas about 'living water' articulated in property regimes, development projects and conservation strategies?