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Andrea Marston joins the faculty of the Institute of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences (EOAS) and Rutgers Geography as an Assistant Professor following the completion of her Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley. She has a BA from Duke University and an MA in Geography from the University of British Columbia. Marston’s research focuses on the material politics of resource extraction. Working at the intersection of political economy, science and technology studies, and the cultural politics of nature, she explores the relationship between the grounded practices of resource extraction and the reproduction of racialized, colonial, and gendered national politics.
Originally from the northern town of Barrhead, Canada, Marston has been working in Latin America for the last decade. Since 2012, she has been studying the history and politics of tin mining cooperatives in highland Bolivia. Previously, she studied water politics in Cochabamba, Bolivia, and Fair Trade craft certification across Latin America (Ecuador, Argentina, and Panama). Her research articles have appeared in Environment and Planning A, Geoforum,Journal of Latin American Studies, Journal of Peasant Studies, Latin American Perspectives, Political Geography, and Water Alternatives.
Marston is teaching the graduate seminar in Environment and Development (450:508) this fall.
Asher Ghertner caught up with Marston:
What is a class you’re looking forward to teaching at Rutgers?
The graduate seminar I’m teaching this semester is going to be great. It builds on critical political economic approaches to development with contributions from postcolonial theory, Science and Technology Studies, and cultural studies. But I’m really excited to develop a 200-level Environmental Justice course, which I’ll be teaching in the spring. This will be a broad introduction to the processes that have contributed to societally unequal access to clean resources and unequal exposure to toxic natures. I expect we’ll be working through case studies ranging from trash picking in Brazil to sand mining in India, but there is also a lot of local EJ activism in New Jersey and I’m looking forward to tapping into those networks.
What led you to geography?
Inspiring articles by geographers that I read as an undergraduate. My undergrad institution didn’t have a geography department, but we read articles by lot of geographers in my Environmental Studies and International Comparative Studies classes. When I couldn’t decide where to locate myself disciplinarily for grad school, I combed back through my favorite articles and discovered that most of them were written by geographers. For an interdisciplinary student with an activist streak, geography is a great home.
Is there a place or field encounter that was particularly formative in shaping your research trajectory and abiding commitments, or something that just sticks with you?
Studying abroad in Ecuador as an undergrad, I was “hailed” by a group of activists fighting against a Canadian copper mine. I was the only Canadian in a group of American students, and I had been basking in the sense that my country was relatively less responsible for the disastrous effects of neoliberal restructuring in Latin America. There is nothing quite like being singled out for one’s oblivious complicity in global resource extraction for inspiring new career paths.
What authors have strongly influenced your work?
There are a few books I return to over and over not just for their arguments but also for their creative storytelling techniques. Diane Nelson’s Finger in the Wound, Jaqueline Nassy Brown’s Dropping Anchor, Setting Sail, and Anne McClintock’s Imperial Leather are always close to hand. I’m a sucker for a good story, but I’m also amazed by how much theoretical work a well-told story can do, particularly when it comes to holding disparate bodies of literature in tension with one another. This is what I strive for in my own writing.
What main writing project(s) lie ahead?
I wrapped up a couple of articles this summer and have a couple more in the pipeline, but my first priority is turning my dissertation into a book manuscript. It’s an ethnographic and historical analysis of the material politics of small-scale mining in the Bolivian highlands. I’m broadly interested in how the material properties and geosocial histories of subterranean spaces shape the miners who labor within them – miners who in turn go on to shape regional and national political economies. I’ll be working on revising a couple of chapters and putting together a book proposal this semester.
Do anything interesting this summer?
Well, I drove with my family from California to here, and we camped in the Mojave Desert, at the Grand Canyon, and in the Great Smoky Mountains. It was way too hot for me – I’m Canadian, after all – but it certainly gave me a new appreciation for U.S. geography.