Grant TypePost PhD Research Grant
Institutional AffiliationRice U.
Grant numberGr. 10069
Approve DateApril 8, 2021
Project TitleBallestero, Andrea (Rice U.) "Expanding the Social World Downards: Aquifers, Science, and Property in Costa Rica"
Expanding the Social World Downwards is a study of how social life above the surface of the Earth intersects with the material world below it, particularly with aquifers. I focus on Costa Rica, a country that has 44% of its territory above aquifers, is deemed a global “eco-laboratory,” and is experimenting with a governance system that centers aquifers in environmental planning. I will study a recently created participatory aquifer management plan that brings together local residents, property owners, and public servants to explore how spatial imaginaries of the underground change when aquifers acquire a prominent place in the public sphere. I will trace the transition from horizontal to volumetric spatial relations by documenting the forms of knowledge and understandings of property that shape this change. The research will follow an ethnographic and multi-modal design to chart (a) the effects of increased circulation of scientific knowledge about aquifers, (b) the relations between surface and subsurface and (c) the volumetric transformation of property as a fundamental social institution.