Yale Himalaya Initiative

environment | livelihood | culture

Luisa Cortesi

Working on water for more than a decade, Luisa Cortesi is currently researching the relationship between environmental change, knowledge transmission, and technologies of water management in the disastrous environment of flood-prone North Bihar. Trained primarily in the social sciences but with a keen interest in the natural sciences and humanities, her work contributes to the interdisciplinary dialogue on these themes. Luisa’s water-related work engages with broader issues such as environmental conflicts and social movements, resource access and water-treatment technologies, sanitation, disaster and resilience, languages and practices of nature, amphibious livelihoods, environmental displacement, and marginality. She is also interested in reflective ethnographic methodologies and in applying research to the practice of social development. Following the completion of a few projects in Sub-Saharan Africa, since 2003 Luisa has been working in India, where she conducted extensive fieldwork in several different states (Bihar, Tamil Nadu, Jharkhand, Rajasthan, New Delhi, Orissa), coordinated rural NGOs in North Bihar on water projects, and served as a water-expert for the United Nations (UNDP, WFP, UNEP, multilateral development. While in Bihar, she survived the two worst floods in living memory (2007-2008). She holds an MSc in Diplomacy and International Relations (University of Turin, Italy), an MA in Social Anthropology for Development (SOAS, University of London), and she is currently finishing her PhD in both the department of Anthropology and the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies at Yale University. Her research has been supported by the Fulbright Commission, Social Science Research Council, the Wenner Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, the American Institute for Indian Studies, the MacMillan Center, the Tropical Research Institute, the Yale Institute for Biospheric Studies, Agrarian Studies, the Yale South Asian Studies Council, and several smaller endowments. She is the recipient of 2016 Royal Anthropological Institute’s Curl prize for the best essay relating to the result or analysis of anthropological work.