Reflections on Water, Bodies and Habit

Watson, Sophie (2021). Reflections on Water, Bodies and Habit. In: Bennett, Tony; Dibley, Ben; Hawkins, Guy and Noble, Greg eds. Assembling and Governing Habits. CRESC: Culture, Economy and the Social. London: Routledge, pp. 116–131.



Water and habit are rarely read together. In this chapter I propose a corrective to this by considering the relations between water and habit across three different terrains, exploring watery habits, and how water mediates and materializes habit in diverse ways. First, I consider how embodied water practices produce and mobilize new subjectivities and selves, as well as new politics, publics and connections, through their enactment in everyday spaces of the city. Here I look at two swimming spaces in North London: the Parliament Hill Lido and Hampstead Ponds. I then examine how the matter of water enrols subjects in particular everyday habits and rituals associated with cleanliness and washing. I consider the place of resistances articulated in strategies to shift water consumption practices at the level of habit, suggesting that these invoke a more rigid notion of habit and its involvement in reproducing dominant hierarchies of power and inclusion. I explore these ideas in relation to the Thames Water smart meter, which sought to reduce water consumption of households in London. Finally, I explore the specificity of water habits and bodies across cultures, where different water habits emerge in particular milieus or environments which have the potential to challenge intercultural understandings and urban conviviality. I do so by looking at the purification ritual of Wudu practiced by many Muslims.

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