The Ethnography Studio at USC brings together ethnographers from a broad array of disciplines and approaches–from arts to engineering, anthropology to education, computer science to sociology–who are experimenting with ways of understanding complex social phenomena, of small and large scales, while embracing the uncertainty and ambiguities that ethnographic research affords for creative thinking.


Eleana Kim (UC Irvine), Gabriela Soto Laveaga (Harvard University), and Teresa Montoya (University of Chicago)

Porous formations are filled with emptied-out spaces. Porous worlds require meanderings and intricate forms of roaming. Analytic and political moves in porous substrates demand attention to both full and empty space.


collaborations & projects


Dr. Andrea Ballestero

Studio Director

I am Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Southern California. My work looks at the unexpected ethical and technical entanglements through which experts understand water in Latin America. I am particularly interested in spaces where the law, economics and techno-science are so fused that they appear as one another. In recent years I have been following the paths of water pricing in Costa Rica, bureaucratic care for water in Brazil, and traveling water knowledge throughout Latin America.

My first book, A Future History of Water (Duke University Press, 2019-you can download the Open Access pdf here) asks how the difference between a human right and a commodity is produced in regulatory and governance spaces that purport to be open to different forms of knowledge and promote flexibility and experimentation. I have worked with regulators, policy-makers, and NGOs in Costa Rica and Brazil where I trace how technolegal devices embody moral distinctions, pose questions about the foundations of liberal capitalist societies, and help people inhabit non-linear and generative futures.

I am currently working in a research project that explores how subterranean space is “re-discovered” through remote sensing and legal technologies that transform it into a new planetary frontier. In Costa Rica, subterranean space has been historically understood as a relatively non-controversial political object. This is changing rapidly. Climate change has brought the underground to the surface; the media, government officials, and everyday citizens increasingly discuss the impending underground water crisis along with questions of value and property that new regulations entail. I am interested in how this re-discovery is at once entangled with and supersedes the legacies of extractivist imaginaries and of property as a fundamental institution of social life. I particularly ponder what happens with law and technology when the extraction of oil and minerals is not the dominant logic for subterranean exploration. Conceptually, this project engages with questions of volumetric spaces, four-dimensional coordenates, and the expectation that in the Anthropocene our material awareness needs to take new forms. In the first publications out of this project I have examined spongy imaginaries and the notion of dissolution as the political and material condition of aquifers. In this talk I share some of my current work on Aquifers, models and volumetric awareness. You can see it here.

You can find my work here:

Katie Ulrich

Coordinator 2017-19, 2022-present

I am a PhD Candidate in Cultural Anthropology at Rice University. My work is at the intersection of environmental anthropology, feminist science and technology studies, political economy, and energy humanities. My current research examines contemporary convergences of resource extraction and science in the making of renewable materials to address climate change. This research is based in Brazil and the US.

In particular, I study the production of sugarcane-based bioproducts, such as biofuels and bioplastics. I’m interested in this because plant-based renewables relate to cultural conceptions of energy transition and social change in general: the way we make our stuff is also the way we make ourselves, and the way we change how we make our stuff is also the way we change how we make ourselves. If one of the ways petro-extractivist capitalism reproduces itself is by naturalizing the way we think material change happens, then my research aims to provide tools for unsettling this idea of change in realms of energy transition so we can better conceive just, sustainable futures.

My research is supported by the National Science Foundation. I have a MA in Anthropology from Rice University and a BA in Anthropology and Biology from Haverford College. Prior to starting my doctoral studies, I worked as a research assistant in a molecular biology lab at the University of California San Francisco.

Yesmar Oyarzun

Co-Coordinator 2019-21

Yesmar is a third year PhD student in the Department of Anthropology at Rice University. For her dissertation project, she is studying how dermatologists deal with differences in skin color in their learning and practices. Her research follows dermatology residents as they learn how to do their work in a diverse US city. She takes special interest in understanding how categories to describe and classify skin based on color are made and applied in dermatology, specifically in the broader context of an already racialized society like the US.

More generally, Yesmar is interested in social difference and the historical and contemporary relationships between race, science, and biomedicine. Besides anthropology, her work generally fits into the fields of Science and Technology Studies (STS) and medical humanities. She engages heavily with critical race, Black feminist, postcolonial, and feminist theories and scholarship.

Before coming to Rice, Yesmar earned a Master of Public Health from The George Washington University (‘18) with a focus on global health. In 2015, she graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.

Lupe Flores

Co-coordinator 2019-21

Lupe is a third-year PhD student in Sociocultural Anthropology at Rice University. Their work explores the ways migration and humanitarian governance converge to impede or facilitate migrant mobility, incorporation, and exclusion in México. In particular, it investigates the ways in which surveillance technologies and processes operate in asylum and humanitarian contexts and how they reproduce oppressive structures marked by gender, sexuality, ethnicity, nationality, racialization, and criminalization. Additionally, it considers how transnational migrant/refugee subjectivities are reconfigured as they become temporarily or permanently settled in—and rearrange—Mexican cities. Lupe’s work takes place in migrant shelters and camps, in asylum and migration offices, among humanitarian workers, asylum and migration officers, activists, lawyers, reporters, and migrants/refugees throughout México and at its northern and southern borders.

Lupe’s master’s thesis research explored gendered perspectives, particularly Mexican American women’s roles and experiences, in migrant smuggling. This project worked against the andro-centric, predatory, and immoral characterization of migrant smugglers by the state, the media, and ethnographic research on migration more generally by gendering experiences in migrant smuggling through a Chicana feminist analysis.

Lupe received their BA in Anthropology from The University of Texas-Pan American and their MA in Mexican American Studies from the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, where they worked as a Curatorial Assistant in the Border Studies Archive and Graduate Student Instructor in the Mexican American Studies program.

Konstantin Georgiev

Co-coordinator 2019-21

Konstantin is a third-year PhD student at the Department of Anthropology whose work investigates the social life of truth at the intersection of politics and science. Drawing on both historical and contemporary data from Soviet and post-Soviet environmental research, he traces the processes through which competing truths emerged from the same scientific data and apparata.

As an undergrad Konstantin majored in Anthropology at New Bulgarian University with a final thesis focused on the everyday politics of a group of political activists after their disenchantment with a former social center they had founded. He also did a minor in TV and Film and worked on documentaries and various creative projects of AGITPROP, an independent Bulgarian production company. He was also tech assistant and assistant co-ordinator at the Balkan Documentary Center’s Discoveries Workshop.

Before deciding to come back to academia, Konstantin spent a couple of years in the documentary film industry. His credits include researcher, assistant producer and production assistant for various TV and feature-length documentaries. He was also fact checker and writer for the two seasons of the first Bulgarian TV series, produced for National Geographic.

Kristin Gupta

Co-Coordinator 2018-20

Kristin Gupta is a rising third-year PhD student in the Department of Anthropology at Rice University, where she specializes in new burial technologies, multispecies ethnography, and queer theory. Her dissertation research follows the ways corporeal perceptions of pollution and planetary limits have come to matter to those making end-of-life plans and deathcare providers in Seattle, Washington, largely focusing on green burial and human composting. She holds an M.A. in South Asian Studies from the University of Washington, as well as a B.A. in International Political Economy from the University of Puget Sound. 

Gebby Keny

Co-Coordinator 2018-20

Gebby is a rising third-year PhD student in Rice University’s Anthropology Department. His dissertation research is situated in South Korea where he investigates how emergent climate change mitigation strategies and ongoing military practices animate the physical and conceptual terrain of the country’s western coastline. He is principally interested in how such processes align on intertidal mudflats, causing intertidal mudflats to become scientifically and existentially intelligible in new ways.

Gebby’s research is supported by the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program. At Rice, he is a predoctoral fellow at the Center for Energy and Environmental Research in the Human Sciences (CENHS), co-coordinator of the Ethnography Studio, co-coordinator of Solar Studios, and co-coordinator of the Ethnographic Film Society. He is also the student representative to the General Anthropology Division Board. Gebby received his B.A. in Anthropology from Haverford College. Prior to starting his doctoral studies at Rice, Gebby worked as a media development coordinator for in Santa Clara, CA and Interdisciplinary Documentary Media Fellow for the Center for Peace and Global Citizenship, Hurford Center for the Humanities, and Marian E. Koshland Integrated Natural Sciences Center at Haverford College.

Tim Quinn

Co-Coordinator 2018-20

Tim is a third year Ph.D. student in the Anthropology department at Rice University. His dissertation research focuses on the social lives of HIV prophylactic drugs in and around Bangkok. He is interested in the ways in which the governance of substances intersects with the governance of subjectivity, as well as the ways in which subjects are experimenting with substances across different contexts of relation, intimacy, and care. With broader interests in the anthropology of pharmaceuticals, medical anthropology, STS, and queer theory, he is interested in the ways that queer subjects engage with chemical infrastructures of health, as well as the ways that substances are made, unmade, and remade across worlding projects at different scales.

Prior to his Ph.D. work at Rice, Tim spent four years living and working in Thailand and Taiwan, where he worked as an activist, researcher, and translator for several NGOs doing work within the realm of sexual health and sexual rights. He completed an M.A. in Anthropology at National Taiwan University in Taipei, where he conducted research on sexual politics in Taiwan and tongzhi activist engagements with debates on sovereignty, as well as national discourses of diversity/multiculturalism. He holds a dual B.A. from The George Washington University in International Development and Anthropology, with a minor in Chinese Language and Literature.

At Rice, he is a co-coordinator of The Ethnography Studio, along with Andrea Ballestero, Kristin Gupta, and Gebby Keny. He is also affiliated with the Center for the Study of Women, Gender, and Sexuality as a certificate student

Mel Ford

Co-coordinator 2017-19

Mel is a fourth-year Ph.D. student in the Department of Anthropology at Rice University. She is a past co-coordinator of the Ethnography Studio with Katie Ulrich, as well as a predoctoral fellow at the Center for Energy and Environmental Research in the Human Sciences (CENHS) at Rice University. Interested in the relationship between form, environment, and design, Mel’s dissertation research is focused on architectural interventions in the deep ravines (los barrancos) that compose nearly half of Guatemala City. Asking how ravines are contested spaces in Guatemala City’s future, she works with architects, urban planners, and policy makers to examine how differently situated experts design and call into view contesting urban, developed, and sustainable futures. While fascinated by the nexus of form, ecology, and design, her work contributes to research on democracy, public space, property, and security in postwar and peacetime Guatemala. Before attending Rice, she received a B.S. in Anthropology and a minor in Gender and Sexuality Studies from the University of California, Riverside where she cultivated research interests in environment, infrastructure, and science and technology studies from her research with the NSF REU in Menomonie, Wisconsin.

Baird Campbell

Co-Coordinator 2015-17

Originally from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, I earned BA’s in French and Francophone Studies, Latin American Studies, and Applied Linguistics from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, graduating in 2009. After 2 years as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant in Madrid, Spain, I spent one semester as adjunct Spanish faculty at Finlandia University before completing an MA in Latin American Studies at Tulane University in New Orleans. My MA thesis analyzed Chile’s mainstream LGBT movement through the lens of hegemonic masculinity, exploring its deployment at three crucial moments in the country’s modern LGBT movement.

At Rice, my dissertation research seeks to expand on my MA research, examining the margins of Chile’s LGBT movement, specifically focusing on the participation and exclusion of trans* people, lesbians, and racial minorities on the periphery of the mainstream movement. More broadly, I am interested in the portability and limitations of specifically Chilean forms of non-binary gender identities, and the work they can do in illuminating subconscious gender constructs in larger Chilean society. Additionally, I seek to understand the viability of state-centered vs. more radically queer activism for LGBT activists in Chile, especially in the case of underrepresented minorities within the movement, and aim to understand the distinctions and similarities between “traditional” activism—such as street marches and political lobbying—and more performative forms of activism and their ultimate effectiveness in bringing about social change.

Eliot Storer

Co-Coordinator 2015-17

I am a PhD student in the Department of Anthropology at Rice University. My research engages environmental management, planetary thinking, and energy systems with a particular emphasis on climate change solution projects. My dissertation research focuses on proposed land-use projects that, with varying degrees of governmental, scientific, and popular support, aim to remediate the negative effects of anthropogenic climate change through scientific engineering practices and technological innovation. Through a global, comparative ethnographic fieldwork project, I hope to highlight the scientific, political, and historical specificities between various land-use proposals.

I am a predoctoral fellow at Rice’s Center for Environmental and Energy Research in the Human Sciences (CENHS), and also help co-facilitate the Ethnography Studio, an experimental, interdisciplinary center for ethnographic research on campus. Read my recent blog essay, “Letting Rain and Making Shine: Geoengineering’s Biopolitics” on the Committee on Anthropology of Science, Technology, and Computing (CASTAC) website, here.