Research seminar in Cultural Anthropology with Andrea Ballestero

  • Date: –12:00
  • Location: Engelska parken Room Eng/3-2028
  • Lecturer: Dr. Andrea Ballestero is Associate Professor of Anthropology and Director of the Ethnography Studio at the University of Southern California. Her book A Future History of Water (Duke 2019) examines how people engage with the world as it is, but differently and do so by creating endless bifurcations. In Costa Rica and Brazil, where the ethnography is located, bifurcations are means to create a difference between water as a human right and water as a commodity as material and political projects. She is co-editor of Experimenting with Ethnography: A Companion to Analysis (2021), a collection of essays and protocols to inspire creative analytic ethnographic work. Currently, Dr. Ballestero is writing a book that explores cultural imaginaries of the underground as a new planetary frontier.
  • Organiser: Department of Cultural Anthropology and Ethnology
  • Contact person: Chakad Ojani
  • Seminarium

Aquifers: Ethnography at the Edges of a Concept

Imagining what life will become in the near future, public officials and community members in Costa Rica are coming together to take responsibility for underground water worlds. In the process they oscillate between two concepts: groundwater and aquifers. Groundwater efficiently conveys a sense of water as a fungible unit that can be exchanged, banked, or spent. In contrast, the figure of the aquifer activates a grounded concept whereby land, liquidity, and history are inseparable. This paper queries the technical and legal tools people use to move from groundwater to aquifers, and back. Focusing on questions around jurisdiction and database making, I consider the everyday tasks required to align the world that is with the world that could be. That is, to engage the world as it is, but differently. More broadly, I argue that this is the kind of political work that is necessary when people commit to work at the edges of a concept.