Dr. Andrea Ballestero
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.
I am currently involved in three interrelated projects. First, I am researching 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, Brazil and Sweden where I have been tracing how technical decisions embody these moral distinctions and pose questions about the foundations of liberal capitalist societies.
A second line of research is concerned with the different forms in which profits and wealth are imagined and regulated in Latin America. This project looks at the technical and affective making of profits (legal and illegal), their changing legitimacy, and the associated technologies involved in their production, regulation, and control.
Finally, I am developing a new line of research that takes the material qualities of water as heuristics through which the politics of the non-living can be examined. Developing in collaboration with Valerie Olson from UC-Irvine this line of research is concerned with the limits of “life” and “bio” as markers of worth. I am interested in charting what might lie beyond the living and how would anthropological inquiry shift if the horizons of value are placed beyond life. This project grows from the ubiquity with which I encountered the phrase “Water is Life” during fieldwork. Hence, it is also an experiment on divergent relationships between knowledge, informants, and ethnographer in contemporary techno-capitalist settings.
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.
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.