Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs
Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Water privatization in Bolivia to be discussed

Water, community and privatization in Bolivia will be discussed at the La Follette School seminar at noon Tuesday, December 2, in the school's conference room.

Erica Simmons, Lyons Family Faculty Scholar and an assistant professor of political science and international studies at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, will talk about a broad-based, widespread resistance movement that emerged when the Bolivian government privatized water in Cochabamba in 1999. She will focus on what accounts for the unprecedented scope and scale of the resistance as well as its cross-class, cross-ethnic, cross-urban-rural,and highly diverse nature. One answer emerges, she argues, by paying close attention to the meanings with which water was imbued in Cochabamba. In the context of a history of irrigation, agriculture, drought, and conflict, water helped produce and reproduce imagined communities of nation, region, and ethnic group as well as quotidian communities revolving around water's routine production and consumption.

Simmons' research and teaching are motivated by an interest in contentious politics, particularly in Latin America. She received an AB from Harvard College (1999) and a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago (2012). Her current work explores the intersection of market reforms and political resistance in the region. Her dissertation on that topic was awarded the Latin American Studies Association's 2013 Oxfam-Martin Diskin award.