Concepts of Water

from an anthropological perspective

Various concepts try to make water tangible from a social or cultural science perspective. Some of them are presented here. The selection will continue to be developed.

Water as a Theory Machine

Stefan Helmreich makes a plea for a "Working Athwart Theory, which simultaneously is 'Thinking through Water'". In order to be able to adequately grasp water in its complexity, he suggests that both the theories and the materialities of water should be taken into account in the context of various ontologies. Theories of water are just as much socio-historical facts as its social formations and value systems are. This perspective allows to actively blur the separation of nature and culture and counteract the fact that water is usually considered by means of only one form of theorization or one underlying theory.

Diverse epistemologies produce different waters and vice versa.


Helmreich, Stefan (2011): Nature/Culture/Seawater
American Anthropologist, Vol. 113, Issue 1, pp. 132–144 oder DOI: 10.1111/j.1548-1433.2010.01311.x