Water has always captivated the cultural imaginary. The deepest parts of the ocean are as alien as outer space. Constantly in motion, everywhere and nowhere at the same time, water resists representation. We can speak of a topography of the seabed, for instance, but not of the ocean itself: maritime boundaries are cartographical abstractions, imaginary lines drawn on subaquatic terrain, impossible to inscribe onto the shifting volumes of liquid above. The work in this issue reflects on the capricious nature of water, and on the multiple registers of power into which it is inscribed: the physical power of water as something measurable and immediate; water as a tool of economic and political power; and water as the expression of deeper and more primordial meanings – a matrix of collective memory and myth.