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Blog posts about my research

I blog about my research and about other public policy issues that matter to me. In this page, I have attempted to compile blog posts about different types of research thoughts under different categories.

Flint, Mexico and the dangerous, slippery slope from drinking tap water to switching to bottled water

The case of lead water pollution in the city of Flint (Michigan) in the United States of America is the latest example of a city that isn’t capable of providing tap water of proper quality for their population, despite having a mandate to do so. Given that this failure has led to increasing acquisition of bottled water, in this post I argue that this is a dangerous and slippery slope, where fear of the tap water is leading to a substitution for bottled water, as it happened in Mexico in the late 1980s and the 1990s.

On institutional erosion and the risk to democratic norms of repeated non-compliance with regulation

I used to study environmental regulation. I left the field because I was annoyed at the blatant lack of rule of law in Mexico. Here are some reasons why we should be worried about declining compliance with regulations.

On the politics of toilet access and the global sanitation crisis (World Toilet Day)

As someone who started out in the sanitation field, I am a very strong supporter of World Toilet Day. I have argued that toilets are political. This post explains why.

The politics of water privatization in Mexico

I’ve been studying the privatization dynamics in Mexican water utilities for a few years now, and this blog post explains a little bit of what I’ve been learning through the research process.

Overcoming structural barriers to tap water consumption that increase bottled water intake

One of the things I noticed during the course of my study of bottled water consumption is that we have started to face structural barriers that stop people from refilling their water bottles and thus encourage bottled water consumption. I discuss some of these in this post.

On the value of urban ethnography in understanding contemporary society

Many scholars who engage in urban ethnography may look at problems and issues that aren’t commonly discussed but that are ever-present in day-to-day life. One of them, which I use as an example here, is the construction of social capital and community building in fast-food stores, like McDonald’s.

Notes from the field: Studying my own municipality’s solid waste and wastewater systems

Strangely enough, it’s only been until 2012 when I moved to Aguascalientes and started trying to understand its solid waste and wastewater governance systems that I paused to think about the implications of analyzing and studying my own municipality/region. This post shares my reflections.

On having ethnographic sensibility

As someone who interacts with vulnerable populations on an everyday basis, it’s relatively easy for me to get into a community and leave the community and maintain some degree of reflexivity. In this post I ponder if this is a technique that can be taught.

The ethics of fieldwork in vulnerable populations

This post was prompted by one of my trips to Montevideo (Uruguay) to do some fieldwork on informal waste picking. I started thinking about what we end up doing in the study of vulnerable populations and how it may harm those populations.

The politics of wastewater governance

Perhaps the topic for which I’m most known in the water studies field, this post explains why I believe that toilets are political, and what my view for the study of global sanitation is.

Remunicipalization: Bringing back “the public” in public service delivery

I have been studying the politics of water privatization for a few years now, and I’ve always been puzzled as to why some local governments choose to break licensing contracts and engage in a process of remunicipalization. In this blog post, I write about the return of public water service delivery in municipalities where privatization of water utilities occurred. The post describes my current research project on this topic.

The spatial, political and human dimensions of water infrastructure

While I am a political scientist and human geographer all wrapped in one individual, I teach in a public administration division, and I’m a comparative public policy specialist. As a result, I have had to create a research programme that makes sense to my tenure committee. This is a post about where my research has been and where it is headed.

Reshaping incentives: Encouraging tap water instead of bottled water

I’ve been working on the governance of bottled water for a few years now, and I’ve been reflecting on what kind of changes in incentives we need to encourage people to drink tap water instead of bottled water.

Urban water governance: Privatization, scale mismatch and infrastructure

I have been studying urban water governance for more than a decade, and in this post, I try to explore three themes around urban water: the mismatch of scales between where governance occurs and where the public issues are located, issue of water privatization, and the state of infrastructure and how that relates to solving public water service delivery problems.

Understanding cross-national and cross-regional variations in informal waste picking practices

This post describes my work on a comparative analysis of informal waste recycling in 8 countries, 13 cities. It is also augmented by a discussion with a couple of colleagues on Twitter.

Studying rules in an unruly country

As a neoinstitutional theorist, Mexico’s lack of rule of law drives me bonkers. In this post I discuss how challenging it is to study rules in an unruly country.

Local economic development: Is purchasing street vendors’ candy the right strategy?

One of my most common strategies to help people (particularly disadvantaged or marginalized) is to buy whichever goods they sell. In this post I question whether this is a good development strategy.

The behavioral determinants of change in sanitation governance

In my work on sanitation governance, I’ve been puzzled by why some people don’t actually access toilets when they actually are able to (that is, why some people choose open defecation even in the face of toilet accessibility). This post reflects on this particular behavioral pattern.

On the importance and relevance of fieldwork

As someone who primarily does ethnography, fieldwork is fundamental to my work. In this post I reflect and engage with a few scholars on why this is the case.

Towards a holistic understanding of sanitation: The links between menstrual hygiene management, open defecation and violence against women

While my research hasn’t been about gender and sanitation for a very long time (it’s a topic I’ve only been studying for a few years), I am able to recognize that lack of access to sanitation has a disproportionately negative effect on women. I explain why here.

Bottled water: commodifying a human right

This post is a summary of the intellectual curiosity and concerns that drove me to study the politics of bottled water production, distribution and consumption.

The politics of intervention choice: HIV, enteric diseases and Ebola

I write about complex policy choices and what policy makers need to know when deciding which efforts to fund.

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