Bottled water practices: Reconfiguring drinking in Bangkok households

Hawkins, Gay and Race, Kane (2011). Bottled water practices: Reconfiguring drinking in Bangkok households. In Ruth Lane and Andrew Gorman-Murray (Ed.), Material geographies of household sustainability (pp. 113-124) Surrey, United Kingdom: Ashgate.

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Author Hawkins, Gay
Race, Kane
Title of chapter Bottled water practices: Reconfiguring drinking in Bangkok households
Title of book Material geographies of household sustainability
Place of Publication Surrey, United Kingdom
Publisher Ashgate
Publication Year 2011
Sub-type Research book chapter (original research)
ISBN 9781409408161
Editor Ruth Lane
Andrew Gorman-Murray
Chapter number 7
Start page 113
End page 124
Total pages 12
Total chapters 15
Collection year 2012
Language eng
Abstract/Summary This chapter examines bottled water practices in Bangkok: how they function practically; how they become meaningful and normalised; and how they interact with everyday household water routines. Single-serve bottled water is generally classified as a fast food commodity driven by the logics of the global beverage industry and designed to be consumed outside the house. Drinking water from a branded bottle is seen as a form of leisure consumption vastly different from turning on the tap and interacting with a state utility. But can bottles and taps be so easily set in opposition, one emblematic of a product, the other of a service? Is the distinction between these two drinking practices as clear-cut as this? What of the many places where state or commercial water utilities are non-existent, underdeveloped or unsafe? In these settings the meanings and efficacy of bottled water, bought from street vendors or home delivered, operate far beyond the registers of frivolous leisure consumption. This is just one of many examples that blur the distinction between taps and bottles and reveal the complexity of drinking water practices. Both bottles and taps deliver water and discipline its consumption via a variety of socio-technical and economic arrangements. And in many settings these different arrangements are inter-articulated, in the sense that they influence and interact with each other in complex and various ways. The challenge is to understand these interactions and to investigate the processes whereby drinking practices are made meaningful. Our interest is in how the matter ofthe plastic bottle comes to matter in different settings. How does a fully materialised account of drinking practices make it possible to think about the interactions between bottles and taps in more productive ways?A focus on drinking practices foregrounds the efficacy ofbottles in different settings. It also shows how objects and practices are mutually constitutive. This approach situates the water bottle within the routines and habits of everyday life and the ways in which artefacts participate in these routines and help constitute the social. Practices, then, are always more-than-human. Rather than see them as an expression of human agency or culture they have to be understood as complex associations of materials, technologies, norms and bodily habits that are sustained and modified through repeated performance or enactment. In the case of the plastic water bottle, these practices vary significantly according to context. As an object designed for portability and single use it is most alive outside the home. How, then, does the bottle mediate inside and outside, or stasis and mobility? And how does it impact on household water practices? In what ways does the tap as the endpoint of a service interact with the bottle as beverage or commodity? How do these distinctions reverberate on the 'economy ofqualities' (Callon et al. 2002) that variously values water? These are the larger questions driving this chapter, but first we explain our approach to the question of practice.
Keyword Sustainable living
Household ecology
Material culture
Environmental protection
Q-Index Code B1
Q-Index Status Confirmed Code
Institutional Status UQ

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Created: Tue, 04 Oct 2011, 14:53:19 EST by Fergus Grealy on behalf of Centre for Critical and Cultural Studies