My research focuses on informal urban development and the governance of water supply alternatives. Drawing on urban political ecology and science and technology studies (STS), I seek to explain how material practices and objects shape our worlds and ways of knowing, particularly in the context of environmental change and deepening inequalities in cities of the global South. I work mostly in Mexico, though I have conducted research in Guatemala and Arizona, and served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Belize and Guatemala.
The Politics of Water Supply Alternatives
Overall, my research examines the governance of water supply alternatives: including technologies, practices, and politics. My dissertation, set in the Mexican city of Tijuana, examined how urban dwellers create and manage informal water--ranging from greywater to illicit sources--and the ways in which these technologies cultivate diverse economies, institutions, and modes of development. While state efforts to provide safe drinking water have largely failed worldwide, my research explores the possibilities and limits of informal water use, particularly in the wake of neoliberal reform in Mexico. This work was funded by grants and fellowships from the NSF, NOAA, Fulbright-Hays, and the SSRC. Recent and forthcoming publications include:
Since 2010, my research has focused on household rainwater harvesting--a small-scale alternative with great potential to supply clean, near-potable water--in Mexico City, a major metropolitan area of over 20 million inhabitants with severe water shortages. Drawing on comparative and postcolonial urbanism, I hope to transform this work into a multi-city project. Toward this goal, I am writing a book manuscript based on the Tijuana and Mexico City projects.
I am also interested in the emergence of large-scale supply alternatives, such as so-called 'toilet-to-tap' schemes (the potable reuse of heavily treated effluent), and the implications of 'new' water for reinforcing urban growth and expert-led paradigms of water control.
Political Ecologies of the State
I have a longstanding interest in the ways that 'nature' and 'nonhumans' are enrolled in the geometries of state power. Recent collaborations with Ian Shaw and Sallie Marston build on new conceptual approaches to the 'state' and stateness, drawing on object-oriented approaches in philosophy and STS.
Social Reproduction and Life's Work
My work in this area explores the epistemological and political possibilities of social reproduction as a critical lens and practice, particularly in light of feminist critiques of political economy. Given the increasing pressures on our daily lives and environments, I am interested in whether an expanded notion of social reproduction (e.g., to nonhumans) might fuel new frontiers of feminist materialist politics.
Mentorship and Teaching
I welcome inquiries from potential graduate students whose interests converge around water governance, urban political ecology, science and technology studies, and comparative/postcolonial urbanism. My regional expertise is Latin America, but I have supervised/mentored students doing work in Detroit, El Paso-Ciudad Juarez, and Dar es Salaam.
Below is a short video on my favorite undergraduate course, GEOG 442 (Urban Geography: The Wire). In this class, we use the acclaimed HBO television series The Wire to explore how capital and culture have shaped the American city. In 2011-2012 this course won the Sherl K. Coleman and Margaret E. Guitteau Professorship (a teaching fellowship) from the Oregon Humanities Center, and was recently profiled by Around-the-O.