#A future history of water: Rachel Douglas-Jones’ comments

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Ballestero’s book is about how the work of valuing water is done, away from the glossy images, hashtags and videos of a single day campaign. An early decision, Ballestero tells us, was that her ‘ethnographic account was going to focus on the dimensions of water that would never make it into National Geographic pictures’, nor would she entertain the call of ‘watery mystique’ (187). Instead, A Future History of Water charts the ‘enormous amount of “deskwork” (186) that goes into working with the ‘fairly unexciting matter of the technical concepts that organize water’s availability’ (187). While its largest framing is the way the categories “right” and “commodity” manage (and are managed in) the making of water futures, the work that fascinates her – to which she brings her ethnographically attuned wonder – is seemingly mundane, taking place in the ‘back corners of bureaucratic offices and in Kafkaesque congressional procedures’ (195). In those corners, offices, and meeting rooms, she sits, listens and talks with activists, experts and public officials as they tweak, adapt and change their tools for engaging the vast issues of what it means to pay for, care for, and manage water in the now.
Original languageEnglish
Publication date2021
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • water


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