Susann Baez Ullberg

Senior Lecturer/Associate Professor at Department of Cultural Anthropology and Ethnology, Cultural Anthropology; Employees

+4618-471 4509
Mobile phone:
+46 70 4250435
Visiting address:
Thunbergsvägen 3 H
Postal address:
Box 631
751 26 Uppsala

Short presentation

PhD in Social Anthropology, specializing on crisis, disaster and environmental anthropology with a regional focus on Latin America.

Keywords: etnografi latinamerika argentina peru krishantering riskreducering infrastrukturantropologi expertis socialt minne och glömska översvämningar skogsbrand klimatrelaterade katastrofer grundvatten vattenpolitik ecbiwa001 coinri006

I am a Senior Lecturer in Cultural Anthropology at the Department of Cultural Anthropology and Ethnology.

I was awarded my PhD in 2014 at Stockholm University. Before coming to Uppsala, I worked as an analyst and teacher at the Swedish Defence University, and I was a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Gothenburg in the years 2015-2017.

At the Department of Cultural Anthropology and Ethnology, I teach at all levels. I am currently the Director of Studies for the undergraduate level.

At present, I am engaged in strengthening Uppsala University’s research on sustainability and environmental justice. I lead the humanities and social science research network Aquifers in the Anthropocene focusing on geohydrosocial relations and the practices and politics of groundwater.

Current research:

C-URGE Anthropology of Global Climate Urgency

The aim of this project is to enhance our understanding of and engagement with climate change by attending to the notion of 'urgency' itself. 12 doctoral candidates pursue ethnographic research in Africa, Latin America, Asia and Europe to understand different perceptions on environmental and climatological urgency, their temporalities, and the political and environmental implications these understandings may have. The doctoral students gain non-academic transferable skills in
organisations that disseminate scientific findings and/or work in political or development-related contexts. The project is a collaboration between five European universities (KU Leuven University, University of Edinburgh, Halle University, Uppsala University, and the University of
Catania) and seven non-academic partners.

The project is a Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions Doctoral network, funded by the European Union and running in 2023-2027. I am one of the PIs and main supervisor of doctoral students Matías Menalled and Metztli Hernández.

Read more about C-URGE here.

Enabling climate-resilient development: How disasters can act as a pathway to a safer and more sustainable world

In popular discourse and the scientific literature, there has been a persistent belief that disasters create conditions favorable to policy renewal. This is the premise of the United Nations approach to build-back-better, which urges communities to exploit disasters to reduce vulnerability and strengthen resilience. However, researchers debate whether disasters actually have this effect. This project is designed to gather and analyze evidence that addresses these gaps and controversies regarding climate disasters as drivers of policy action for climate resilient development (CRD). This interdisciplinary research project bring together researchers from political science, economics, anthropology, peace and conflict research, and computational linguistics to pursue questions about policy action after climate disasters. By policy action, we mean decisions and measures associated with the adoption, delivery, change, or termination of public policy goals and instruments. The project aims to explore whether and under what conditions climate disasters enable policy action for CRD in countries worldwide.

The project is led by Prof. Daniel Nohrstedt at the Department of Government, Uppsala University, and is funded by the Marianne and Marcus Wallenberg Foundation, running between 2023-2027.

Concluded research projects:

Waterworks: Infrastructure and Expertise in Peru

Fresh water accounts for less than three per cent of the earth's water supply and, due to climate change, water sources disappear at a worrying speed. One of the 21st century's biggest challenges is to ensure water to the world's inhabitants, why it is important to improve water management and achieve water equality, especially in the many developing countries that are particularly affected by climate change and water shortage. By exploring how environmental and political reforms in Peru not only exacerbate existing conflicts but also lead to new forms of cooperation, this research aims at providing knowledge about how the world's water shortage can be managed. The study is carried out within the framework of the research project New Forms of Andean Water Cooperation: Negotiating Water Values and Water Rights in Peru´s Highlands in collaboration with researchers at the University of Gothenburg and funded by the Swedish Research Council (VR) (2015-2018). This project explores how different state and private actors participate in new forms of cooperation to manage how water is made available, distributed and used under current climatic, political and social circumstances.

The study examines how experts who work in the water sector in Peru produce apply their knowledge and organize their daily work. Ethnographically, the study focuses on the so-called Majes Siguas Special Project in the Arequipa region of southern Peru. This is a large infrastructure project that collects water in dams in the highlands (4000 m a s l) and leads it through tunnels and canals down to the arid lands near the coast to enable and expand intensive farming there. The project was initiated and built in the 1970s and 80s, and is now under expansion. For the purposes of the study, I have in the years 2016 and 2017 through ethnographic fieldwork followed the experts (engineers, architects, economists, lawyers, sociologists, chemists, environmental scientists) working on operating the existing infrastructure and planning and implementing the expansion. The study is now in the analytical phase and draws on anthropological research in several areas; water, infrastructure; knowledge; organization, to analyze the ethnographic material.

Scorched Communities: Meaning, Memory and Morality after Wildfire

The forest fire that occurred in the Swedish province of Västmanland in August 2014 have had devastating effects on the environment, but have also had a deep psychological and social impact on local communities in the area. Focusing on the years after the event, this research project seeks to develop knowledge about how individuals and organizations have managed and recovered from this natural disaster to identify factors that promote and / or hinder recovery and reconstruction, both in the short term and in a longer-term perspective.

The project investigates decision makers’ and the residents' experiences from the actual fire and its material consequences, as well as adaptations to geographical and social changes in the area. Furthermore, the different experiences and understandings of how the event has been handled and how it has been produced in the media among different social actors will be subject to review and analysis.

The analytical framework includes social theories on the processes of meaning making and remembering, on moral argumentation and medial framing, which together form a broad multidisciplinary framework. Various qualitative methods, including participant observation, interviews with key actors, media and document analysis, are applied in the gathering of empirical data.

The results of the project are expected to have societal relevance in several aspects, by providing input for recovery in affected local communities, as well as contributing to strengthening principles and practice at local and regional levels both during and after extreme events.

The project is financed by the Swedish Research Council for Environment, Agricultural Sciences and Spatial Planning (FORMAS) and carried out in collaboration with researchers at the Swedish Defence University (2014-2018).

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Susann Baez Ullberg