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Anthony Di Fiore, Chair SAC 4.102, Mailcode C3200 78712 • 512-471-4206

Andrea Ballestero- "The Ethics of a Formula: Financial-Humanitarian Calculation in Costa Rica"

Mon, April 7, 2014 • 12:00 PM • SAC 5.118

"The Ethics of a Formula: Financial-Humanitarian Calculation in Costa Rica"

Can there be prices outside of markets in capitalist societies? In Costa Rica, the naturalization of water as a human right and public good drives regulators to create non-market prices through legal, financial, and moral tools that entangle personal commitments with state-making logics. These prices preclude the generation of profits, are created outside of relations of exchange and are assessed on their ability to instill balance and harmony.

To understand regulators’ affective and ideological attachments to non-market prices as well as the place of calculation in water ontologies I trace an unconventional ethnographic object: a mathematical formula. Designed and negotiated in anticipation of its future effects, the formula by which non-market prices are calculated illuminates the unexpected lives of human rights, the inconspicuous implications of the financialization of social life, and the role of regulation in the re-makings of capitalism.


Andrea Ballestero is an Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Rice University.  

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