Academic journal article American Studies

THE FABRIC OF SPACE: Water, Modernity, and the Urban Imagination

Academic journal article American Studies

THE FABRIC OF SPACE: Water, Modernity, and the Urban Imagination

Article excerpt

THE FABRIC OF SPACE: Water, Modernity, and the Urban Imagination. By Matthew Gandy. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. 2014.

This volume explores selected aspects of the water and wastewater infrastructure of six megacities with an emphasis on distinctive characteristics rather than systematic comparison. Modernity, particularly in its technological and social dimensions, serves to unite the essays thematically, with perspectives on nature and the environment as a background theme.

Part history, part critique, and sometimes travelogue, the collection takes us through the sewers of Paris, then, by way of the recreational landscapes of Berlin, to the malarial swamps of Lagos. Then en route to the severely challenged lawful and unlawful water conduits of Mumbai before delivering readers to the vanished Los Angeles River and a not so fictional London widely inundated by rising groundwater levels and surface flooding.

Within the narrative ofthe construction of 350 miles of Paris sewers by 1870, Gandy presents his more elaborate enterprise: "By tracing the history of water in urban space we can begin to develop a fuller understanding of changing relations between the body and urban form under the impetus of capitalist urbanization." The Berlin story then illustrates the role of industrialization in promoting civic appreciation for nature's contribution to urban well-being including, for example, opportunities for bathing and outdoor waterside recreation on the part of the growing workforce. Swamp draining in Nigeria-the removal of surface waters and disease carrying insects-represented a strategic colonial priority that simultaneously contributed to social ordering and the discipline of nature. …

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