Maria Alessandra Woolson

Middlebury College, Middlebury, VT 


Maria Alessandra Woolson is a Visiting Instructor in Spanish at Middlebury College and is an A.B.D. from the University of Arizona in Hispanic Literature with minors in Geography and Border Studies. Her work focuses primarily on ecocriticism and cultural studies in Latin America. Maria is the co-author of Eight Reales Cobs of Potosi (2006) and numerous articles that have appeared in Divergencias (2013), International Journal of Sustainability in Economics, Social & Cultural Context (2012) and International Journal of Virtual and Personal Learning Environments (IJVPLE) (2012). The focus of her research lies at the intersection of nature and culture. The work brings together the worldviews of science and humanities through trans-disciplinary research in the areas of sustainability, intercultural studies, and language.


Rapa Nui and Canary Islands: A Political Ecology Approach to Understanding Water Governance

Privatization of water has been vigorously advanced by national governments and international lending agencies as the most effective response to the urgent need to devise practical approaches to improving water quality, quantity and access. However, this approach to management often reduces the multifaceted nature of water to a set of simple economic relationships and treats many of its socio-cultural dimensions as externalities; in practice, these externalities, what we can think of as the multidimensionality of water, ultimately complicate if not undermine many of the very same approaches to managing the resource and result in ecological, social and cultural degradation. 

This presentation examines the contradictions between institutional practices organized around water privatization as a universal approach to water governance, and the ecological and cultural process that constitute water systems. Three case studies, one in the Canary Islands and two in South America (Buenos Aires and Rapa Nui) highlight the inappropriateness of narrowly conceived economic solutions and the concomitant need for contextualizing particular sets of issues in particular places when governing water. In particular, attention is drawn to the implications of models that assume a uniform notion of modern citizenship, which are unwarranted in many developing countries and to the metabolic transformations for urban supply, which are unwarranted in rural contexts.