Anthropology Home

Morgan Lecture Series

Upcoming Lewis Henry Morgan Lectures

Wednesday, October 14, 2015 at 7 p.m.
Lander Auditorium, Hutchison Hall, University of Rochester

The Cultural Politics of Water In the Everglades and Beyond

Jessica Cattelino
Associate Professor of Anthropology

“Getting the Water Right” is the motto of Everglades restoration, which is among the world’s largest and costliest ecosystem restoration projects. In Florida and globally, getting the water right is as much a social and cultural project as it is scientific or political. Anthropologist Jessica Cattelino builds from ethnographic research in the Everglades to examine the cultural politics of water, or the ways that human communities incorporate water into their expectations of one another’s actions and attributes. Examining how Everglades residents—including Seminole and non-Seminole farmers and ranchers, water managers, and environmentalists—value water, she asks us to consider the distinctive forms that nature takes in settler colonial societies like the United States. She suggests that is only by doing so that we can “get the water right” in the Everglades and beyond.


Professor Cattelino's research focuses on economy, nature, indigeneity, and settler colonialism. Her book, High Stakes: Florida Seminole Gaming and Sovereignty (Duke University Press, 2008; winner of the Delmos Jones and Jagna Sharff Memorial Book Prize from the Society for the Anthropology of North America), examines the cultural, political, and economic stakes of tribal casinos for Florida Seminoles. Currently, Professor Cattelino is writing an ethnography about the cultural value of water in the Florida Everglades, with focus on the Seminole Big Cypress Reservation and the nearby agricultural town of Clewiston. This project tells the human story of Everglades restoration and theorizes the co-production of nature and indigeneity in settler societies like the United States. Additionally, she writes about indigeneity and money, the anthropology of the United States, and indigenous sovereignty, and is collaborating with photographer Adam Nadel on a museum exhibition about the inextricability of people and nature in the Everglades.

Her work is influenced by scholarship in American Indian Studies and Gender Studies, and she holds faculty affiliations in both programs at UCLA. Her current research is funded by the National Science Foundation (Law and Social Sciences), the Wenner-Gren Foundation, and the Howard Foundation. Additionally, Professor Cattelino is funded through participation in a National Science Foundation Long Term Ecological Network on the Florida Coastal Everglades, for which she is undertaking wildly interdisciplinary collaboration as a co-author of a paper on phosphorus and will conduct ethnographic research on the social life of a stormwater treatment area. Recently Professor Cattelino was a Visiting Associate Professor of American Studies at Yale University.