(1) Energy Assemblages

As an extension of current research on lithium industrialization and the politics of energy in Bolivia, I am engaged in a long-term research transition toward broader processes within the wider lithium commodity and use chain, including the manufacture of lithium-ion batteries; the design and marketing of electronic vehicles (EVs); the development of charging infrastructures; EV adoption and non-adoption; the intervention of the state through regulation, tax incentives, and public investment; and the geopolitical and political economic dimensions of lithium supply and demand, experimental research, and environmental conflict.

We are analyzing these interconnected processes through the theoretical category of the “energy assemblage”: the multiple material, social, phenomenological, economic, and ideological dimensions that collectively constitute the “lithium lifeworld.” This energy assemblage is becoming increasingly important against a background in which widespread EV adoption and eventual combustion engine replacement are key pillars in all the major carbon neutrality policies, from the European Union’s “Green Deal” to the city of Lausanne’s announcement that combustion engine vehicles will be banned from city limits by 2030.

(2) The Food That Will Feed the World

With funding from the Swiss National Science Foundation (2019-2023), this project is focusing on the materio-technological challenges of lithium industrialization from evaporation mining in Bolivia’s Salar de Uyuni to the production of lithium-ion batteries at the research and production facility in Palca, Potosí. At the same time, team members are conducting ethnographic research on the cultural and environmental dimensions of lithium industrialization through extended fieldwork with lithium producers and scientists in Bolivia and among villages that border the Salar de Uyuni, each of which has its own relationship to the Salar and the state mining project that is framed by local histories of extraction, salt mining, artisanal industry, and defense of the land.

(3) Reinventing Human Rights

As a continuation of long-term research on the relationship between human rights and social transformation, this project takes stock of the potential and limitations of human rights in relation to the most pressing contemporary crises, including economic inequality, human-induced climate change, and structural discrimination. Drawing on ethnographic, historical, philosophical, and critical methodologies, the project identifies the most significant existing challenges for human rights in order to propose ways in which human rights—as law, politics, and ideology—can and must be radically reoriented for the future. The basic argument of the project is that human rights—conceived in significantly different terms—offers the most nuanced, pluralist, and (potentially) globally legitimate model for responding to the range of chronic social, economic, and environmental problems.

(4) Critical Essays on Anthropological History and Theory

Animated by over thirty years of research, writing, and interventions in the field, this project examines the current state of anthropology within wider ecosystems of knowledge, ethics, and politics. The project explores both key dilemmas within anthropology, and the ways in which anthropological modes of knowing and being in the world offer valuable means for understanding, and acting upon, our complicated and often fraught lived realities.

The project takes up the central problems for the discipline of anthropology from a critical, but ultimately sanguine, perspective. Despite recent iterations of longer standing calls to replace or retire anthropology from the canon of social and human sciences, the project argues that these expressions of disciplinary malaise, which have become sharper within current academic politics, fail to appreciate the vitality and incomparability of anthropology as a domain whose inconsistencies and epistemological ambiguities mirror those of everyday life itself.