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You are here: FRIAS Fellows Fellows 2023/24 Dr. Luisa Cortesi

Dr. Luisa Cortesi

Erasmus University
International Institute of Social Studies
Environmental Anthropology
Disaster Studies, STS
Environmental Sciences of Water

Member of the Young Academy for Sustainability Research
October 2021 - September 2024


Luisa Cortesi (dual Ph.D., Anthropology, Environmental Studies, Yale University, with distinction) is an environmental anthropologist who studies how people know about, and adapt, to water disasters, a process that involves technologies and infrastructure, as well as institutions and social differences. Her work intersects with science and technologies studies, the environmental sciences of water, development studies, the environmental humanities, South Asian studies. She is Assistant Professor at the International Institute of Social Sciences, Erasmus University; Marie S. Curie Junior Fellow at the Freiburg Institute of Advanced Studies; Affiliate Professor of Environment and Sustainability, Cornell University. She has been Stanford H. Taylor Postdoctoral Fellow in Science and Technology Studies and Anthropology, as well as Atkinson Fellow in Sustainability, at Cornell University, USA (2018-2020).

Dr. Cortesi’s work has been awarded the 2019 Field Prize for “poetic and literary” scholarship, the highest honor for graduate dissertations at Yale, the (2017-2018) for “high academic standards” based on a national competition amongst graduate students of any discipline in the U.S.A.; the 2017 Eric Wolf Prize for “advancing the field of political ecology”; the 2017-2018 biennial PRAXIS Applied Anthropology Award for “outstanding achievement in translating anthropological knowledge into action”; and the 2016 Curl Essay Prize by the Royal Anthropological Institute for “the best paper relating to the results or analysis of anthropological work.”

Her research has been supported by the Fulbright-IIE, Wenner-Gren Foundation, Social Science Research Council, Josephine de Karman Foundation, American Institute of Indian Studies, MacMillan Centre, Yale Institute for Biospheric Studies, The Tropical Institute, the European Union. Luisa has served as a water expert for the United Nations, and continues to support several NGOs in India and in Sub-Saharan Africa. She has founded and leads the Water Justice and Adaptation LAB, a new platform for collaborative work between scientists and communities on water-related environmental justice.

Selected Publications

  • 2022, "On the Epistemic Ruins of Experience", in Linden, B. Invisible Cities and the Urban Imagination, London and New York: Palgrave Macmillan
  • 2022, "Dug-Well Revival: An Ethnographic Project for Drinking Water in North Bihar, India" in Redding, T. and Cheney, C. Profiles of Anthropological Praxis: An International Casebook, New York and Oxford: Berghahn
  • 2022, "Hydrotopias and Waterland" Geoforum, Special Issue on Water/Land, May, 131 (215-222)
  • 2021, Split waters: The Idea of Water Conflicts. London and New Delhi: Routledge (edited with Joy, K.J.)
  • 2021, “The Ontology of Water and Land and Flood Control Infrastructure in North Bihar, India” Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute  27:4
  • 2019, “Flooding Water and Society” (with Camargo, A.) WIREs Water, July
  • 2018, “The Muddy Semiotics of Mud” The Journal of Political Ecology 25:1, 617-637


  • Nature/culture
  • Environmental Knowledge of Disastrous Water in Urban Europe (with Corinna Köpke and Sahani Pathiraja)

Other projects & third-party funding

  1. Disastrous Waters—How Inequalities of Environmental Knowledge, Resilience and (Mal)adaptation Matters
  2. Learning from Disasters

  • Theory of Wet Spaces
  1. Amphibious knowledge
  2. Geomorphologies of Wet Spaces

  • Water Contamination
  1. Categories of Contaminants
  2. Water Purification Technologies

  • Water conflicts—Split Waters