Dr. Ballestero's Keynote titled "SURRENDERING TO THE PULL: AQUIFERS, MODELS, AND THE CULTIVATION OF VOLUMETRIC AWARENESS

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February 24, 2020

Critical Commentary

Introducing Dr. Andrea Ballestero:

We are very excited to introduce our guest of honor, Dr. Andrea Ballestero, who has traveled all the way from Houston, Texas to join us today. Dr. Ballestero is Associate Professor in Anthropology at Rice University. She works at the intersection of anthropology, law, and feminist STS, weaving her training in environmental law and policy into her ethnographic work. She also directs the Ethnography Studio – an experimental and interdisciplinary space to explore ethnography through creative methods. After the talk, we invite you to stick around for a conversation with Dr. Ballestero about The Ethnography Studio and their work with interdisciplinary experimental methods that engage ethnography as a textual form, a research strategy, and a modality of knowledge production.

I should also mention that this is not Dr. Ballestero’s first run at Irvine [next slide] – she graduated from UCI’s Department of Anthropology in 2010 -- and has had an especially enduring impact here; I’ve been told that many generations of UCI PhDs have read her grant proposals as models! Here she is pictured with other UCI grads at the 2018 annual meeting of the Society for Social Studies of Science. The following year, Dr. Ballerstero co-chaired this annual meeting in New Orleans, bringing powerful intellectual leadership to the theme  of “Innovations, Interruptions, Regenerations.”  

Dr. Ballestero’s research centers on legal and human rights debates of water in Brazil and Costa Rica. Her 2019 book is titled A Future History of Water. As hinted in both the title and the truly stunning cover, her book traces the dynamic and ambiguous nature of water:

What is the nature of water – a human right or a commodity? Can water be transformed from a commodity into a human right through legal action? Rather than tracing human rights in courts, or commodities in markets, she follows water activists and experts across locations which span from cubicles, community meetings, and international workshops to Excel files.

For those of you who are just joining, our conference this year is centered on Spatial Knowledges and Imaginaries. Dr. Ballestero’s work has a lot to teach us about how to conceptualize space, knowledge, and practice – from spaces of legal, economic, and techno-scientific entanglements, to subterranean space and extractivist imaginaries. Her book powerfully demonstrates how we can analyze the scalar practices that produce spatial, legal, and hydrologic knowledges, as well as how ethnography can move across scales (from the body to bodies of water).

Through this project, she demonstrates how knowledges can be materialized through techno-scientific tools and practices, and, as well as (in her own words) “how water is kept mattering through the everyday bureaucratic and technical decisions whereby its very materiality is at stake.”

Without further ado, I would like to hand over the floor to Dr. Ballestero, who will be sharing a talk titled “Surrendering to the Pull: Aquifers, Models and the Cultivation of Volumetric Awareness.”