Accepted paper:

Schoon and other goods pertinent to water care in the Netherlands


Annemarie Mol (University of Amsterdam)

Paper short abstract:

What is it for water to be 'schoon'? This Dutch word mostly translates into English as 'clean'; but sometimes rather resonates 'beautiful'. The paper takes this layered word as an occasion to explore felicitous and terse relations between different modes of valuing.

Paper long abstract:

In the Netherlands water care includes the persistent pumping of water from polder land that finds itself is below sea level. Hence, ground water levels are regulated, in ways that are contentious, as farmers have different water wishes than, say, birds. Water care also includes keeping, or making, water 'schoon' - clean - either clean enough for downstream eco-systems to survive; or clean enough to keep people bound to drink it from falling ill. The bacteria that 'do the cleaning work for us' (as the technicians say) thrive on the faeces and urine flushed out through toilets, but have trouble with undue additions, such as drugs. And they also don't like cleaning products - used by people to clean their bodies and houses; after which they dirty the water in which they flow out to rivers and seas. What can we learn about normativity from analysing how various goods and bads are in tension here?

panel A14
In other words: caring for water