Capacity as Aggregation

Promises, Water and a Form of Collective Care in Northeast Brazil

in The Cambridge Journal of Anthropology
Restricted access

Abstract

As the twenty-first century gets underway, people have been experimenting with many forms of political organization. In Northeast Brazil, that experimental spirit led to the creation of the Water Pact, a process involving more than eight thousand participants through a series of public promise-making rituals in which they made pledges to care for water, attending to the specificities of their own context. The Pact gathered those promises into a multi-scalar formation that, the organizers believed, would yield the necessary resources to address the state’s water problems. The Pact would break with an unsuccessful history of infrastructural and legal reforms concerning deep-water access in the state of Ceará. This article examines how that collective was produced, what its constituent units were and how the logic of aggregation guided practices leading to its coalescence. My purpose is to re-examine the aggregate as a quantitative form of capacity that should be qualitatively reconsidered.

Contributor Notes

Andrea Ballestero is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Rice University, Houston, Texas, where she also runs the Ethnography Studio. Recent publications include ‘The Ethics of a Formula, Calculating a Financial-Humanitarian Price for Water’ (American Ethnologist, 2015) and ‘What’s in a Percentage? Calculation as the Poetic Translation of Human Rights’ (Indiana Journal of Global Legal Studies, 2014).

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