Water in Social Imagination

from Technological Optimism to Contemporary Environmentalism


Water in Social Imagination considers how human communities have known, imagined and shaped water – and how water has shaped both material culture and the imagination. Essays from diverse perspectives offer histories of water at different scales – from community water wells and sacred springs to Siberian rivers and the regulated space of the Baltic Sea. From early modernization through Soviet style technological optimism to contemporary environmentalism, water’s ideological uses are multiple. With sustained attention not just to state policy and the technologies of high modernity, but to creative resistance to utilitarian imaginations, these essays insist on fluidities of meaning, ambiguities that derive both from water’s physical mutability and from its dual nature as life necessity and agent of destruction.

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Jane Costlow, Ph.D. Yale (1987) is Professor of Environmental Studies at Bates College. She has published extensively on 19th century Russian literature and culture, and is the author of Heart-Pine Russia: Walking and Writing the Nineteenth-Century Forest (2013).

Yrjö Haila, Ph.D. University of Helsinki (1983), professor of environmental policy (emeritus) at the University of Tampere, has explored the nature–society interface; books include Humanity and Nature (with Richard Levins, 1992), and How Nature Speaks (co-editor Chuck Dyke, 2006).

Arja Rosenholm, Ph.D. University of Tampere (1999), is professor of Russian language and culture at that university. She has co-edited Understanding Russian Nature (2005), Russian Mass Media and Changing Values (2010) and Topographies and Popular Culture (2015).
All interested in the significance of water in human culture and politics, and anyone concerned with cross-cultural approaches to environmental history.
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