Department of Anthropology

Seminar Series: Dr. Andrea Ballestero, Rice University

A future history of water, or, how to wonder with techno-legal devices?

Fri, March 6, 2020 | WCP 5.118

12:00 PM - 1:00 PM

Seminar Series: Dr. Andrea Ballestero, Rice University

How do people commit to intervening in the future while acknowledging its unruliness? I propose the figure of the techno-legal device as a lively space where we can learn how people constantly negotiate the form of the worlds they want to bring about. In this talk, I will focus on one device: a list of water types produced by Costa Rican congressional representatives during the discussion of a constitutional reform to recognize water as a public good and a human right. During the fifteen years it lasted, Libertarian representatives made a series of seemingly outrageous claims: they theatrically declared that if the reform passed, ice cubes would become state property; they claimed that since all human bodies are 70% water, the reform would automatically turn 70% of their bodies into state property. Session after session, they produced a typology of state-owned waters that challenged any definition of what water is, of where its borders sit, and of what liberal ideas such as public goods entail. In this paper I explore their list as a techno-legal device to ask how people establish relations with facts, matter, and politics. I will argue that when taken as a techno-legal device, the list helps us see the making of a future history of water, a series of preconditions that can only be recognized as meaningful in the yet to come.

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