Book release [open access]: Virtuous Waters

Virtuous Waters: Mineral Springs, Bathing and Infrastructure in Mexico

Casey Walsh

University of California Press

This book is available to read open access via Luminos.

virtuous waters

Virtuous Waters is a pathbreaking and innovative study of bathing, drinking and other everyday engagements with a wide range of waters across five centuries in Mexico. Casey Walsh uses political ecology to bring together an analysis of shifting scientific, religious and political understandings of waters and a material history of social formations, environments, and infrastructures. The book shows that while modern concepts and infrastructures have come to dominate both the hydrosphere and the scholarly literature on water, longstanding popular understandings and engagements with these heterogeneous liquids have been reproduced as part of the same process. Attention to these dynamics can help us comprehend and confront the water crisis that is coming to a head in the twenty-first century.

“Reminds us that, within wider homogenizing discourses, there are multiple unique waters, whose particular ‘virtues’ are central in defining how people have imagined, understood, and interacted with them over time.” VERONICA STRANG, author of Gardening the World: Agency, Identity, and the Ownership of Water

“Plunges readers into seldom explored depths of the cultural world of water in central Mexico, providing a refreshing approach that goes beyond infrastructure to immerse readers in in routine practices of bathing, washing, and drinking water and their links to colonialism, public health, sexuality, tourism, and neoliberalism.” JOHN SOLURI, author of Banana Cultures: Agriculture, Consumption, and Environmental Change in Honduras and the United States

CASEY WALSH is Associate Professor of Anthropology at UC Santa Barbara. He is the author of Building the Borderlands: A Transnational History of Irrigated Cotton along the Mexico-Texas Border.


News: updates from Political Ecology Research Centre, Massey University, NZ

POLLEN initiators Bram Buscher and Rob Fletcher (Wageningen University, The Netherlands) will be traveling to New Zealand in early February 2018 with colleagues from Sociology of Development and Change Group (SADE).  They will visit Massey University’s PERC (Political Ecology Research Centre) members and researchers from the School of People Environment and Planning (SPEP).  A workshop will be held at New Zealand’s National Park and the group will also visit Massey University’s Auckland and Palmerston North campuses.  The visit is intended to stimulate existing collaborations between PERC, SPEP and SADE and to bring these to the next level.  

PERC is also pleased to announce an open access book publishing contract with Athabasca University Press for Plastic Legacies: Persistence, Pollution, and Politics.  This collection edited by Trisia Farrelly, Sy Taffel, and Ian Shaw, developed out of PERC’s online conference held last year: The Lives and Afterlives of Plastic. The unifying theme of the edited collection is the material politics of plastic. Plastic Legacies considers how an interdisciplinary approach drawing upon the arts, humanities, social sciences, natural, and life sciences can illustrate the problems and offer potential solutions to the global plastics crisis. 

PERC will soon be announcing their next annual online conference, Feral:
In the twenty-first century, globalisation has become a truism, rather than a challenge or opportunity. People, money, resources, culture and power all flow around the world in ever increasingly complex systems and assemblages. Yet even as apparently almost all aspects of life become subject to global circulation, our ways of thinking about natural or non-human worlds remain stubbornly resistant to concepts of hybridity and exchange. Nature is so often imagined to have a proper place, arrangement or constitution: certain species are desirable and must be saved, whereas the flourishing of others (from algae to jellyfish to rats) can be taken as a sign of imbalance or degradation. In order to re-examine how we conceive and value different forms of nature or the non-human, this event calls on participants to take up the feral as a way to explore the possibilities and problems of the human relation to the non-human world.  The idea of the feral gestures towards forms of non-human life that have spurned human control or expectations: ‘bad’ forms of wilderness that are out of place and upset conventional thinking about the desirable or proper arrangement of nature. From biosecurity to so-called invasive species, ‘dead zones’ to re-wilding, urban pests to the idea of the feral calls on us to interrogate our assumptions about how, what, where and why nature ought to be, how we draw those lines and distinctions and how they speak to wider structures of power and privilege.

The Feral conference will be online late in the year.   Please see our website for updates: