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Upcoming talks: #CAG 2015 on geographies of waste

I love conferences that happen in my hometown, and I’m lucky that the Canadian Association of Geographers (CAG) conference this year will take place in Vancouver. I’m here now, and will come back after Edmonton (where I’ll be speaking at IASC 2015, presenting two papers) to do some fieldwork and participate in two panels that I organized with Dr. Kate O’Neill (University of California Berkeley) on the geographies of waste. Kate and I will also be presenting our research on informal e-waste recycling in Mexico, the US and possibly Canada. If you’re at CAG and are interested in my work, send me an email and we can schedule a one-on-one meeting.

I’m very grateful to Dr. Roger Hayter, the chair of the organizing committee for CAG 2015, and a former member of my doctoral dissertation committee, and I’m really excited to see him and many other Canadian geographers this week.

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Upcoming talks: #IASC2015 on polycentricity and socio-ecological systems

Thrilled to announce that I’ll be at the 2015 International Association for the Study of the Commons meeting organized by Dr. Brenda Parlee and a great team of collaborators at the University of Alberta in Edmonton (Canada). I organized a panel and I’m participating in another. The panel I organized has papers by Andreas Thiel, Edella Schlager, Dustin Garrick and myself, all on polycentricity (a concept pioneered by Vincent Ostrom and then developed further by Elinor Ostrom). A paper I’m presenting on the socio-ecological systems (SES) framework and how it applies to water governance is part of another panel.

You can find abstracts for my two papers below and the panel I organized here:

Polycentricity in commons governance: Theories, case studies and future challenges
Organizer: Raul Pacheco-Vega, PhD.
Institution: Centro de Investigacion y Docencia Economicas (CIDE)
Contact: raul(.)pacheco(-)vega(@)cide(.)edu

Polycentricity as a conceptual and analytical framework has recently gained much popularity, in particular because of its potential for robust commons governance. While Vincent Ostrom and Elinor Ostrom had already pioneered work on polycentric commons governance, recently it has had many applications to climate change, forestry and water resource management, amongst many other topics. This panel will examine the challenges of using polycentricity in commons governance as a theoretical and empirical strategy. Papers in the panel will explore case studies of polycentric commons governance, discuss theoretical advances in polycentricity theory and formulate specific challenges facing the literature on polycentricity.

My paper:
Evaluating polycentricity in water governance? Towards a life cycle measuring framework
Dr. Raul Pacheco-Vega
Centro de Investigación y Docencia Económicas (CIDE)

Despite being a concept coined by Vincent Ostrom in the early 1960s, polycentricity has emerged in the last decade pretty much like another panacea, overarching paradigm (much like integrated water resources management has been for the past 30 years). Elinor Ostrom and Vincent Ostrom’s work has nonetheless helped advance our understanding of polycentric systems for resource governance, yet a gap still remains: is polycentricity a concept that can be measured? Should it be measured and can we reach a consensus on which dimensions should be used for this measurement? In this paper, I combine the literature on polycentricity with the issue area of water governance and build a qualitative and quantitative framework through which I then examine sub-national, comparative case studies of water governance in Mexico. I argue that the life cycle framework presented in this paper needs to be tested with other cases across nations to refine whether the dimensions of polycentricity offered in this paper actually increase our analytical power to better understand commons governance.

Thank you to the organizers of IASC 2015, I look forward to participating!

Posted in environmental policy.

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Reporting on higher education needs more diverse voices, and the NYT is NOT on it

Well, if I’m going to blog about this, I might as well go big or go home, so here’s my rant, more or less pieced out from the NYT recent pieces on academic conferences and the “value” of a professor. Both pieces were written by scholars who, when we talk about privilege (and being a full time academic IS a privilege) are within the top rungs. I call these pieces “academic clickbait” because they make us all go “BUT THAT’S NOT HOW ACADEMIA REALLY WORKS” and write response pieces, which in turn (because we’re good scholars and we cross-link and attribute) give them even more clicks. Remember when I said that these pieces were click-bait? This is a genre most perfected by Nick Kristof, who got us all angry because we were told we weren’t engaging enough with the public and we still lived in the ivory tower.

So, two folks I really like took the NYT’s bait and responded two most excellent pieces, which are respectively David M. Perry in defense of the academic conference, and Kevin Gannon, explaining that he was too busy teaching to be lectured to on the value of professors. I really like both David and Kevin and their responses to the NYT’s academic clickbait, particularly because they come from the SLAC world.


What I said on Twitter this morning remains true, about the lack of diversity in the voices that exists in academia and the public discourse around it, and it is important to remember that three of the responses I saw were by white male academics who are full time faculty members, two at small liberal arts colleges (David and Kevin) and one tenured at an R1 (Dan Drezner, whom I also really like). It is true that David and Kevin’s responses DO add to the diversity because they present us not with the R1 (research university for those not of you in the world of academiquese) view, but with a SLAC view. And Dan reminds us that the risk with these op-eds is that a common, day-to-day reader would simply take what they read at face value and form a grossly oversimplified view of what higher education looks like. But voices from scholars of color, female academics, adjuncts, are still nowhere to be found.

I took the bait too, but I swear that there is a reason why I am doing so. As I said, to add diversity to the conversation you would also need to hear, as I indicated, from marginalized academics, adjuncts, graduate students, female scholars, academics of color, and queer scholars. Those who, like David and Kevin indicate about the case of professors at SLACs, face structural inequalities in the world of higher education day in and day out. And I’m queer, Latino and I teach in a Mexican institution but maintain an international presence. So I figure I had something to add to the conversation. I recognize my own privilege (full time, TT, 2-0 teaching load), but I am also part of communities that have traditionally faced marginalization.

I have previously defended the value of academic conferences, particularly because that’s where I get a lot of exposure to my work in English, seeing as I teach in a Spanish language institution. I have also previously showcased the challenges of public engagement for marginalized academics given the realities of structural inequalities and marginalization processes that are deeply embedded in traditional academia.

So, I issued a challenge on Twitter: we DO need to rethink academia, but collectively. Not by getting individually angry at these op-eds, but by starting, continuing, and furthering our conversations about what needs to be done to change higher education, and THEN do it. I will acknowledge that these op-eds do start conversations amongst ourselves, I just wish we did not need them to have these talks. And again, I insist on the lack of diverse voices in mainstream reporting and opinion pieces on higher education. Hopefully this new wave (trust me, we will get another academic click bait piece in 3…2…1) of thought pieces will force us to engage more deeply with the issues facing modern academia, particularly how to create opportunities for public engagement for scholars on the margins.

EDIT: Speaking of more diverse voices, LD Burnett and Melonie Fullick also wrote responses to Bauerlein that are totally worth checking out, and much more interesting than the academic clickbait we were subjected to.

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4th International Young Scholars Workshop in Public Policy and Administration Research at CIDE

I’m really excited about the upcoming 4th International Young Scholars Workshop in Public Policy and Administration Research that the American Society for Public Administration (ASPA) and my colleagues in the Public Administration Division at CIDE are putting together.

Stand del CIDE en el CLAD 2013 Montevideo (Uruguay)

I’m a big fan of any and all initiatives aimed at enhancing and improving research skills of young scholars, and I would love to see a few familiar faces apply for the workshop. The workshop will take place in Mexico City at the Santa Fe campus of CIDE, over the course of 4 days, which should give ample time for young scholars and senior professors to interact and have a productive week working out details of their research, get tips and feedback on how to get published, and several other topics.

You can read the call for applications in more detail here. Bear in mind that the deadline is coming up fast, May 15th, 2015. The working language for the workshop will be English, so participants should be able to communicate in this language with relative ease.

CIDE Santa Fe

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My #AcWri Strategies: Write reflective memos

A number of scholars have asked me what do I meant by a “reflective memoin my previous post, so I figured I should probably post an example. This is a specific memo on a reading, and I will post a memo on my research and also an example of how to write fieldwork notes. I tend to be pretty obsessive when it comes to my research, and particularly when I write, because I know that whatever I read eventually will end up on one (or more) of my papers. To give just one example, the work of Oriol Mirosa on the human right to water has already been cited a few times in my publications.

For this particular example, I wrote a memo to myself summarizing Jeremy Schmidt’s book chapter in Farhana Sultana and Alex Loftus’ edited volume on the right to water. The first thing I did was to read the book chapter. Since I don’t write on the margins of books, I attached sticky notes to places where I thought I had found something “quotable”, and/or a phrase that I wanted to engage further with (see photo below)

Annotating book chapters

I then wrote a memo summarizing Jeremy’s chapter and then synthesizing how I reflected on it and compared it with other scholarship. Below is the actual text of my memo.

Schmidt, J. J. (2012). Scarce or insecure? The right to water and the ethics of global water governance. In F. Sultana & A. Loftus (Eds.), The right to water: Politics, governance and social struggles (pp. 94–109). London, UK and New York, USA: Earthscan.

Schmidt argues that while we (as scientists, an epistemic community) may agree that scarcity and security are two states of the current hydrological systems on planet Earth, these are primarily judgments, but these same arguments and agreed-upon ideas shape what we believe and how we approach policy solutions to solve global water governance problems.

“The right to water must take up a position that counters the prevailing norms that have led to the problems it seeks to address. The coordinating norms of global water governance have been primarily, if not exclusively utilitarian, and these, in turn, have sought to install the propositions of water scarcity and water security as judgments of an epistemic community that uses these propositions to support governance norms across all scales of governance. “(Schmidt 2012, p. 105)

Schmidt calls for a redefinition of community in such a way that we may overcome the problems that utilitarian governance presents us with.

Interestingly, Schmidt argues that pricing water may actually NOT be a bad idea and governance mechanism, but warns us against using it as a catch-all policy instrument. My view (RPV) is that Schmidt is right, and that’s perhaps one of the problems with operationalizing the human right to water properly – that we don’t actually know exactly how to use the right policy instruments because we are so obsessed with the notion of making water accessible to all (see Mirosa and Harris 2012, and Mirosa 2015, but also Gupta and Obani and my own work, Pacheco-Vega 2015 on bottled water).

One interesting and somewhat contrasting view of the idea that Schmidt is posing re: community is that of Risse (2013) who argues that we should conceptualize ourselves as the stewards of Earth and Earth’s resources and thus enacting and implementing the human right to water is an obligation that we all have (contrast with Schmidt’s view of community – doesn’t contradict, but looks interesting).

Mirosa, O., & Harris, L. M. (2012). Human Right to Water: Contemporary Challenges and Contours of a Global Debate. Antipode, 44(3), 932–949.

Mirosa, O. (2015) “The Human Right to Water as a Fetish: Difference and Power in Water Struggles“. Paper presented at the Association of American Geographers, 2015, Chicago IL. April 25th, 2015.

Obani, P., & Gupta, J. (2014a). Legal pluralism in the area of human rights: water and sanitation. Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability, 11, 63–70. doi:10.1016/j.cosust.2014.09.014

Obani, P., & Gupta, J. (2014b). The Evolution of the Right to Water and Sanitation: Differentiating the Implications. Review of European, Comparative & International Environmental Law, 1–13. doi:10.1111/reel.12095

Pacheco-Vega, R. (2015). Agua embotellada en México: de la privatización del suministro a la mercantilización de los recursos hídricos. Espiral: Estudios Sobre Estado Y Sociedad, XXII(63), 221–263.

Risse, M. (2013). The Human Right to Water and Common Ownership of the Earth. Journal of Political Philosophy, 22(2), 178–203.

saving memorandumAs you can see, I wrote a summary of the article, a few quotes (here I’m only showing one for demonstration purposes) and then I linked what Jeremy wrote with what I already had studied and other scholars’ work. Usually I also include the bibliography at the end, not so much for myself, but in case I want to share my memos with someone else, and so they can find them. I write the memo in a MS Word file, save it with a very descriptive name and file it in the structure shown on the figure. So for example, this paper is on water citizenships and the human right to water. Thus, I saved the memo I wrote on Jeremy’s chapter on to that folder.

As I have said, my process may not be perfect, but it works for me, and hopefully it will work for you too.

Posted in academia, research, writing.

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My #AcWri strategies: Write memos about readings and about research

When I was in undergraduate (I studied chemical engineering), it was bizarre for my male colleagues that I would have such neat printing and that my notes were always drawn in different colors and clearly differentiated. For example, when I drew distillation towers, I would use purple for the distillate and pink for the vapor being generated. Same when I drew heat exchangers (I would draw the different components in various colors). My affinity for neat handwriting (printing) and writing by hand, and having great notes for later reading has remained through graduate school and now that I’m a professor.

Reading academic papers while flying

When I write, I use a technique that I learned in graduate school that seemed to mimic what I did when I was in undergraduate. I write and then use a set of miscellaneous series of memorandum (memoranda) for my research. So, when I read, I write a memorandum to myself summarizing the journal article, book chapter, and copying exact wording for key phrases that I believe are important to cite in future research. This way, I know EXACTLY what the author said and when he/she said it, and I can cite pages and authors. I did this for every single paper, book chapter, book and journal article I read for my comprehensive examinations and I continue doing so for my current post-PhD research.

So, for example, say I’m summarizing a paper (in this case, I took one chapter in a book edited by Alex Loftus and Farhana Sultana on the human right to water by my friend Jeremy Schmidt as an example). I mark potential good quotes in the chapter (note that in the case of books, I don’t actually write on the margins, but I attach sticky notes) and then type them into a memorandum. The keywords for said memorandum included “right to water”, “counterpoints”, “alternate views on human right to water”.

Annotating book chapters

Or for example, when I write notes from a talk or conference paper, I always try to make sure to capture the main points of the author/speaker in my notes, and write them in such a way that I can then easily transcribe them. For this particular example I used the recent AAG talk by my friend Oriol Mirosa also on the human right to water.

AcWri handwritten notes and journal article reading

All of these go into my Research folder, under whichever project I’m writing (I have different folders for each project and for each paper). My folder structure for papers is per year (e.g. My Papers 2015, and then the tentative title of the paper) I type my notes and memoranda into MS Word files and save them then I also upload them on to Evernote so that they can be easily searchable. While I primarily use Evernote to save news clippings for each project I’m doing, I also use it for my notes.

I am extremely old school, and thus I print out my journal articles, book chapters, and I highlight them, and I also write notes by hand, and then type them. I find that I learn much more when I do this. It’s also good because I can go back to my handwritten notes when I need to cross-check a particular reference.

AcWri handwritten notes and journal article reading

So when I have a set of memoranda about a particular topic (e.g. a paper on the human right to water, which is what I’m writing right now), I pull out my highlighted journal articles, I cross-reference them with the outline I’ve written by hand, and then I copy-and-paste quotations as I deem relevant. This helps me think through a full manuscript following the same style as I mentioned before, I fill up a paragraph on a particular theme, and then another, then another. Following this method rigorously is necessary for me if I want to maintain a certain level of productivity, measured by how much I read and how much I write. And as usual, I integrate this process with my morning writing ritual.

Home office in Aguascalientes at night

I want to clarify that my memoranda aren’t just typed notes with specific quotations. They’re also self-reflective notes where I argue, agree or counter-argue with the author’s point. This is an important distinction from simply typed notes (which are still helpful), because self-reflection is what makes my writing and my research move forward. For fieldwork, I usually do a similar thing where I type my handwritten notes and my voice notes, but I figured I should write separately about how I write these field notes (for a future post!).

Posted in academia, research, writing.

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My experience at #AAG2015 Some reflections

AAG Fetishes of Water  GovernanceWhile I do a lot of spatial analysis, I follow a lot of human geographers on Twitter and I did a lot of economic geography in my doctoral dissertation, I hadn’t been to the Association of American Geographers (AAG). I had done a few Canadian Association of Geographers (CAG), and for the first time in my life, this year I’m doing both. Well, I did AAG already (last week) and will be at CAG in early June 2015. This year, I decided to organize a couple of paper sessions with Oriol Mirosa (University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee) and Jeremy Schmidt (Dalhousie University, soon-to-be-at Carleton University). I’ve always loved Oriol and Jeremy’s work and it was a great experience to collaborate in this project.

What can I say about my experience “at the AAG” (that’s how most geographers seemed to call it)? It was AMAZING. I have to note that I missed two of the biggest political science conferences (Midwest Political Science Association, MPSA and Western Political Science Association, WPSA) because they were way too close to AAG for me to spend 3-4 weeks conferencing. In many ways, I felt that I had made the wrong calculus because so many political scientists I wanted to meet were both at WPSA and MPSA.

AAG 2015 Association of American Geographers conference


My experience at AAG was nothing short of outstanding. You have to understand, I was spending one week of my holidays (we are on holidays right now at my campus) in Chicago for a conference I had never been to, and while I do spatial analysis, my obvious slant towards public policy and political science is quite visible, both on my work and online. So I didn’t know how the geographers would react to my work. Happy to report that they reacted really well. I am positively impressed by the kindness with which human geographers conduct themselves while providing feedback to other presenters. Other academic learned societies could do well to follow their example.

Jeremy, Oriol and myself organized two paper sessions around the topic of Fetishes of Water Governance. We wanted to critically interrogate the most relevant aspects of water governance issues that seem to be the object of affection (or shall we say, object of obsession?) of many social scientists. Why are we fixated on public participation? Why is the human right to water such an important construct, and is it feasible to implement? Why are we obsessed with data, and when is it enough?

AAG Fetishes of Water  Governance

AAG Fetishes of Water  Governance

AAG Fetishes of Water  Governance

AAG Fetishes of Water  Governance

AAG Fetishes of Water  Governance

AAG Fetishes of Water  Governance

Our sessions, Fetishes of Water Governance I and Fetishes of Water Governance II achieved exactly that, and even though we were allocated in what I call “The Dumps” (the most intricate, hardest-to-find furthest room they could possibly find, and the last two sessions of the last day of the conference), we had an extraordinary audience that was willing to stay with us for the entire set of papers, which I found rewarding and helpful.

AAG Fetishes of Water  Governance

The discussant was Kathryn Furlong (Université de Montréal), a well-known scholar in urban water governance (and a very good friend of mine who was also a colleague in graduate school).

AAG Fetishes of Water  Governance

I felt really happy to have Kathryn discuss our papers because she really brought out some excellent comments on the reification of specific fetishes. I look forward to what will come out of our sessions, most likely a special issue of a journal.

One thing I wanted to note was that every single host hotel (with the Hyatt Regency Chicago being the main coordinator and host, apparently) served water from the tap, and that there were abundant water bottle refilling stations throughout all the hotels. This is not a small feat to achieve and I wanted to note it, given my own research on bottled water and the marketization and commodification of water.

AAG 2015

Quite obviously, I attended a lot of the water sessions. There were a number of urban geography and geographies of sexuality and economic geography sessions, but I concentrated on water as this is the field where I am most established and where I wanted to see my colleagues. Kathryn Furlong presented work she’s doing with Michelle Kooy on Worlding Water Supply.

AAG 2015

Rebecca Lave (Indiana University, at Bloomington, and someone I’ve slowly become friends with because we’ve seen each other so much in the last couple of years) is a critical physical geographer who studies political ecology and physical geography, particularly in riparian streams, and she did a fantastic presentation on stream mitigation banks, which seems to provide a similar alternative to that of carbon credits and tradeable permits.

AAG 2015

I also saw some preliminary work that Margaret Wilder (University of Arizona) is doing on desalination in the US-Mexico border with a number of colleagues, including my friend Nicolas Pineda Pablos.


I also saw the work that Harriet Bulkeley, Mat Paterson, Matt Hoffmann, Sarah Burch, Patricia Romero Lankao and others are doing on pathways to decarbonisation and trigger/tipping points in climate governance in urban systems. Sarah Burch (University of Waterloo) is also a very good friend of mine and former colleague in graduate school, so it was nice to see some of her post-PhD work in action, on community-based adaptation. I’ve always loved Sarah’s work and it’s nice to maintain the friendship AND the interest in each other’s scholarly work.

AAG2015 Association of American Geographers conference

AAG2015 Association of American Geographers conference

I also saw work on water and irrigation in Guanajuato, presented by Heather-Lee Brown (PhD student of Wendy Jepson of Texas A&M University, whose research I’ve followed for a long time) and a paper presented by Wendy herself on time and space in water social and geographical research, and attended several sessions where these topics were discussed (technology, time, space, flow). While some stuff did fly over my head because I’m not a social studies of science or science, technology and society studies scholar, overall, I think the water sessions at AAG were fantastic.

My overall Twitter stream of the conference is available here. My photo set on Flickr is here. And I’ll definitely be back to AAG, that’s for sure. I got to meet many people, see old friends and make new. And my research will definitely move forward thanks to the AAG. I’m really excited for what the next conferences will bring, including CAG.

Posted in academia, conferences.

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My #AcWri strategies: Integrate reading into your writing workflow

My good friend (and graduate school colleague) Amanda Bittner (who is a professor of political science at Memorial University of Newfoundland) was asking on Facebook how do other fellow academics keep up with journal article reading (and reading, in general) other than binge-reading for when we are preparing a syllabus or writing a paper. I am not going to claim by any stretch of the imagination that my process is efficient, nor that I’m good at keeping up with journals and/or reading articles or book chapters or even books. But I promised Amanda I would blog about what I do and how do I do it, so the second in my series of My AcWri Strategies posts (the first being my suggestion that you should be working at the paragraph level instead of frustrating yourself with filling up pages) is how I integrate reading into my writing workflow (and perhaps you could take up some of the recommendations I have here for your own process).


Here is a brief summary of what I do to keep up with journals and maintain a steady stream of articles in my reading pile. I track both gray literature and academic literature, so I will interweave both into my comments on this post.

1. I have set up Google Alerts for specific research topics (sanitation, privatization, remunicipalization, Mexico, water policy). This helps me keep my finger on where the global conversation is. A little bit of a problem is that I track both terms in English and in Spanish, so this becomes a little bit too much information to filter. But I usually go through my alerts when I’m writing specific papers, or updating my memorandums (I’ll explain what a memorandum is below).

2. I have set up email alerts for the tables of contents of journals. Many (a bit too many, in my view) journals. This helps me see what’s being published. I only have journal table of content alerts in English, as I really don’t track the Spanish language ones. You could say I’m excluding myself from a lot of the conversation that is happening around water policy in Mexico in Spanish. However, I’m subscribed to the Network of Social Scientists of Water in Mexico (RISSA, in Spanish), and most people promote their own journal articles so I feel I’m connected to the Spanish language literature.

3. I print out interesting papers that I may want to read later. Call me old fashioned, but I am used to reading in print, highlighting with actual highlighter pen, writing notes by hand both on the margins of the article and then typing those notes in a memorandum. I sort these journal articles, book chapters, reports, etc. per topic, and I add a little sticker with the article/book chapter’s authors’ last names and year of publication for easy access. Then, whenever I am travelling, I choose a few of those to bring with me. This is often problematic when I feel like I have too much to read, where I switch to an electronic version instead and bring my tablet.

Working and filing journal articles

4. I write memoranda to summarize and imprint what I learned from an article into my memory. I learned to write memoranda from Brian O’Neill, a professor of social work who teaches qualitative methods. He taught me to always write “memos to myself” (e.g. self-reflective notes). Drawing on insights from his class, I decided to write summaries of journal articles, book chapters, etc. Each memorandum has a title (that is usually descriptive enough and that I replicate in the MS Word file) and then I summarize the journal article. I draw quotes from each article/book chapter and type them out. This method of using memoranda helps me because whenever I want, I can cite/quote an author, and I already have the text typed (copy-and-paste in this case is your best friend).

My academic writing #AcWri process

5. I read when I travel. Because I travel so much (for conferences, workshops, fieldwork and to visit my parents), I use those travelling times to read. But along the same lines, I always make notes (handwritten if there is no space to use my laptop computer) and highlight relevant text.

AcWri handwritten notes and journal article reading

6. I read every morning to kick-start my writing. This is a strategy that I didn’t invent. My former professor, Terre Satterfield, suggested to me that she always read an article or book chapter to get her thinking going. I figured that if I was going to read, I should always write summaries of those articles/book chapters/reports. I also link specific reading I do with the paper/manuscript I’m working on.

7. Sometimes, I binge-read. I am not above binge-writing or binge-reading (this is usually the case when I have a deadline and even my rigorous, 2-hours-a-day writing regime is not helping). What I do is a Google Scholar search, and also track the references that both cite articles I deem relevant, and those that are cited by specific authors. Sometimes, you got to do what you got to do. And I’m not about to scold anyone for binge-reading.

So these are my suggestions on how to integrate reading into my writing workflow. Again, full disclosure: I speed-read, and I have a pretty decent quasi-eidetic memory. Also, I have a very low teaching load (2-0), So I do read a lot because I can. But I really hope that sharing my strategies will possibly help others even if they’re more time-constrained, at least a bit.

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Upcoming talk: AAG 2015 – Citizen Participation in Water Governance as a Fetish? Explaining Mexico’s Integrated Water Resource Management Implementation Failure

I’m in Chicago right now for the 2015 meeting of the Association of American Geographers (can they please change it to American Association of Geographers already?!), and I’m loving it. While I’m a dual major in political science and human geography, most of the conferences I attend are usually public policy, political science or area studies (e.g. common pool resources, water, etc.). So I’m very glad I attended. It’s a new challenge to speak human geography while maintaining my political science background. I am also keen to see how a geography audience responds to my work, given that I usually bring up the spatial and locational dimension to political science and public policy groups. In this case, I’ve been bringing up the politics of spatial analysis to the geographical audience. This is an interesting and important challenge for me. I don’t want to just “rest in my laurels”. I want to be continuously challenged.

This conference is providing me with this opportunity and with the chance to meet up with geographers I’ve corresponded with on Twitter. AAG has been great even though I’m technically on holidays, and even though the panel sessions (Fetishes of Water Governance I and Fetishes of Water Governance II) I organized with Jeremy Schmidt and Oriol Mirosa are all the way on the Saturday afternoon.

river flow

My paper title and abstract follow.

Citizen Participation in Water Governance as a Fetish? Explaining Mexico’s Integrated Water Resource Management Implementation Failure
Raul Pacheco-Vega, PhD
Assistant Professor, Centro de Investigacion y Docencia Economicas (CIDE)

Scholarship both in the social and natural sciences on integrated water resource management (IWRM) has settled more-or-less on managing through river basins/watersheds and using the river basin council as a model for effective/efficient water governance. While this paradigm has become quite popular in the literature, and several case studies of IWRM implementation in Mexico have been documented, no cohesive analytical effort has been undertaken (to the best of our understanding) to explore and analyze the characteristics under which the river basin council model does not operate well, and when it does. This paper sheds light on our understanding of the river basin model and interrogates whether governance by river basin councils and citizen participation are fetishes of water governance instead of effective institutional reforms. The paper aims to offer a balanced view, showcasing case studies of successful implementation of the river basin model, as well as cases where the model has failed. In particular, the paper explores the case of Mexican water policy as one where implementing IWRM has been less than successful.

Keywords: water governance, fetishes, integrated water resource management, governance by river basin councils, geographies of water

I’m here until Sunday if anybody wants to discuss my work on water governance or my work on informal waste recycling.

Posted in academia, research, water policy.

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