City and nature are typically perceived as opposites: cities are manufactured social creations, while nature is the opposite of artificial - outside the realm of the social except when extracted or otherwise worked upon by humans. In City of Flows , Maria Kaika, a tenured geographer at Oxford, argues against this perception through a novel theoretical investigation of the tight interrelationship between the modern city and nature. She looks at water, at once the most "natural" of elements and one that is available to virtually all city dwellers in the Western world through an incredibly complex system of pipes, taps, water towers, and aqueducts. Through an historical geography of water in the modern city, Kaika shows that nature and the modern city are fully intertwined, with cities integrating nature into the most mundane activities and at every level. She delves into the vast infrastructure of water, looking at how it circulates outward from nature into all facets of urban social life and dissolves any sense of a geographical divide between nature and the social.
In the process, she considers how the different ways of harnessing water for the city have corresponded to different epochs in modern Western history.