Spring 2023 Charlas con café (In Person): "Ethnography at the Edges of a Concept: From Groundwater to Aquifers in Costa Rica"



1 to 2 p.m., Feb. 10, 2023

Center for Latin American Studies, Spring 2023 Charlas con Café – a weekly space to hear lectures from a wide variety of experts and discuss topics relevant to the Latin American region, Fridays from 1-2 p.m. (unless otherwise specified).

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, liquid, and history are inseparable. This talk queries the techno-scientific tools people use to move from groundwater to aquifers, and back. These oscillations happen at the level of political jurisdictions and data bases, and have less to do with definitional struggles and more with political tactics.In this context, I ask what are the stakes of oscillating between concepts, and what kind of responsibilities for subterranean water worlds are possible along that movement?

Dr. Andrea Ballestero is an Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Southern California. She is also Director of the Ethnography Studio. Her book A Future History of Water (Duke University Press, 2019) examines how government officials and NGOs in Costa Rica and Northeast Brazil differentiate between water as a human right and water as a commodity. She is also co-editor of Experimenting with Ethnography: A Companion to Analysis (Duke University Press 2021). Dr. Ballestero is currently writing a book that explores cultural imaginaries of the underground in Costa Rica, focusing on how the emergence of aquifers into the public sphere is expanding the social world downwards into subterranean space.


Kristal Natera