Casey Walsh


Contact Phone

(805) 893-2339

Office Location

HSSB 2081


Sociocultural Anthropology (political economy, Mexico-United States borderlands, water, commodities, history, materialisms)


PhD, New School for Social Research


Research Interests

My research falls into two general areas. The first is anthropological political economy, with a focus on the Mexico-US borderlands. Throughout my career I have studied the ways in which water, land and labor have been organized to produce commodities in areas marked by aridity, especially northern Mexico and the US southwest, including California. In my first book (Building the Borderlands) I show how a regime of accumulation based in irrigated cotton agriculture gave form to borderlands infrastructure, society and culture. After that I published a book on how mineral springs have been used, managed and conceptualized over the long durée in Mexico (Virtuous Waters). I chronicle enduring understandings of water as heterogeneous and effective, and suggest that these water cultures can form the basis of both collective sustainability and increased commoditization. Recently I have turned my attention to the use and management of groundwater for agriculture in California, and am conducting an ethnographic study of how new legislation - the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) - is being enacted in the Central Coast region of that state.
The other major thrust of my research concerns the history of anthropological thought, and I approach anthropological concepts and discussions as a cultural formation that takes shape in particular political and economic contexts. I am particularly interested in perspectives that have developed outside of Europe and North America, and have published work on different traditions within Latin American Anthropology, how these traditions are linked to broader transnational dialogues, and how they have been applied to development and state formation.


Recent book chapter: "Water to Wine: Industrial Agriculture and Groundwater Regulation in California"




Groundwater and Grapes in California’s Central Coast (2014–present) 

This project assesses expanding wine grape cultivation on groundwater management in Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo Counties. Particular attention is given to the recent capitalization of the sector, the depletion of aquifers, and the ensuing creation and implementation of laws regulating groundwater in California. It situates the local social and environmental dimensions of the expansion of wine grape production within global markets and climate change. 

The Social Use of Hot Springs (2010–present) 

Mineral Springs have always been a central focus of the world’s different water cultures, but have received almost no attention from social scientists. This project investigates the social use and culture of mineral springs in Mexico and California, and problems concerning: 1) access; 2) infrastructure; 3) bathing; and 4) environmental values. 

Water, Agriculture and Society in the Mexican Borderlands (2001-present) 

This project studies the history and current condition of water in the Mexico-United States Border region. Attention is placed on the history of cotton, and subsequent development of high-value crops. It analizes the social and economic effects caused in urban and rural sectors by water scarcity, as well as the changes to social and physical infrastructures.


Walsh, Casey. 2022. "Beyond rules and norms: Heterogeneity, ubiquity, and visibility of groundwaters" WIREs Water e1597

Walsh, Casey. 2022. "Hydraulic Opulence: Artesian Wells and Bathing in Mexico, 1850-1900." Water History 14: 85-100.

Vogt, Lindsay and Casey Walsh. 2021. "Parsing the Politics of Singular and Multiple Waters." Water Alternatives 14(1): 1-11.

Walsh, Casey. 2021. "Waters, Water and the Hydrosocial Politics of Bathing in Mexico City, 1850-1920." Water Alternatives 14(1): 47-59.

Partridge, Tristan, Javiera Barandiaran, Casey Walsh, Kalina Bakardzhieva, Leah Bronstein, and Monica Hernandez. 2020. "California oil: Bridging the gaps between local decision-making and state-level climate action." The Extractive Industries and Society

Walsh, Casey. 2019. “Water to Wine: Industrial Agriculture and Groundwater Regulation in California”, In Defense of Farmers: The Future of Agriculture in the Shadow of Corporate Power. Jane W. Gibson and Sara E. Alexander, eds. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.

Walsh, Casey. 2018. Virtuous Waters: Mineral Springs, Bathing and Infrastructure in Mexico. Luminos Open Access Series. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Barandiarán, Javiera and Casey Walsh. 2017. “Production/Destruction in Latin America” Journal of Political Ecology 24: . Introduction to Special Section, “Production/Destruction in Latin America” Javiera Barandiarán and Casey Walsh, editors. Journal of Political Ecology 24: 717-725.

Walsh, Casey and Constanza Parra. 2016. “Introduction: Socialities of Nature Beyond Utopia” Nature and Culture 11(3), Special Symposium, Casey Walsh and Constanza Parra, editors. Pp. 229-238.

Saldívar, Laura and Casey Walsh. 2015. "Nanotecnología para el tratamiento de agua. Claves sobre la investigación en México" Mundo Nano Vol. 8, No. 14: 53-69

Walsh, Casey. 2015. “Mineral springs, primitive accumulation, and the “new water” in Mexico” Regions and Cohesion 5(1): 1-25.Walsh, Casey. 2014. “Bordered Spaces: Nation-States and Private Property”. Blog Entry. Public Political Ecology Lab, University of Arizona.

Walsh, Casey and Cirila Quintero. 2013. “El algodón en el norte de Tamaulipas: 1920-1965” in Cerutti, Mario and Araceli Almaráz, eds., Algodón en el Norte de Mexico: Impactos Regionales de un Cultivo Estratégico.  Tijuana: El Colegio de la Frontera Norte. Pp 141-198.

Walsh, Casey. 2013. “Borders, Infrastructures and Power” in Koff, Harlan, ed., Theorizing Borders through Analyses of Power Relationships. Peter Lang Press, Brussels.

Walsh, Casey. 2013. “Water Infrastructures in the Mexico/U.S. Borderlands” Ecosphere. 4(1):8.

Walsh, Casey. 2012. “The Role of Culture in Water Demand Management” in Maganda, Carmen and Olivier Petit, eds., Strategic Natural Resource Governance: Contemporary Environmental Perspectives / Les Gouvernance des Ressources Naturelles Strategiques: Perspectives contemporaines dans le Domaine de L’environnement. Brussels: Peter Lang Press.

Walsh, Casey. 2012. “Anthropology and the Commodity Form: The Philadelphia Commercial Museum” Critique of Anthropology 32(3): 223-240.

Walsh, Casey. 2012. Editor, Special Section Mexican Water Studies in the Mexico-US Borderlands Journal of Political Ecology 19: 50-93.

Walsh, Casey. 2012. “Introduction.” Special Section: Mexican Water Studies in the Mexico-US Borderlands Journal of Political Ecology 19: 50-56.

Walsh, Casey. 2011. “Managing Urban Water Demand in Neoliberal Northern Mexico.” Human Organization 70(1): 54-62.

Walsh, Casey. 2010. Construyendo fronteras: una historia transnacional del algodón de riego en la frontera entre México y Texas.Mexico City: Centro de Investigaciones y Estudios Superiores en Antropología Social / Universidad Iberoamericana.  (Translation of Building the Borderlands {2008}).

Walsh, Casey and María del Carmen Caño Secade. 2010. “Infraestructuras de Producción y Consumo: Algodón, Sorgo y Hortalizas de Matamoros, Tamaulipas.” Consumos Globales: De Mexico al Mundo, Carmen Bueno Castellanos and Igor Ayoro, editors. Mexico: Universidad Iberoamericana.

Walsh, Casey. 2009. “‘To Come of Age in a Dry Place’: Infrastructures of Irrigated Agriculture in the Mexico-U.S. Borderlands.”  Southern Rural Sociology 24(1): 21-43.

Walsh, Casey. 2008. Building the Borderlands: A Transnational History of Irrigated Cotton on the Mexico-Texas Border. College Station: Texas A&M University Press.

Walsh, Casey. 2008.  “Statistics and Anthropology: The Mexican Case.” A Companion to Latin American Anthropology. Deborah Poole, editor. London: Blackwell. Pp. 352-371.

Walsh, Casey. 2007. “’Un risueño porvenir’: Algodón y desarrollo regional en la frontera norte Mexicana, 1920-1965.” Paisajes Mexicanos de la Reforma Agraria: Homenaje a William Roseberry.  Francisco Gómez Carpinteiro, editor. Puebla and Zamora, Mexico: Benemerita Universidad Autónoma de Puebla / Colegio de Michoacán. Pp. 97-132.

Walsh, Casey. 2005. “Las Culturas del Agua.” Páramo del Campo a la Ciudad. Año 3, Número 7: 102-106.

Walsh, Casey. 2005. “Región, raza y riego: el desarrollo del norte mexicano, 1910-1940.”Nueva Antropología 64: 53-74.

Walsh, Casey. 2004.  “‘Aguas Broncas’: The Regional Political Ecology of Water Conflict in the Mexico-U.S. Borderlands.”  Journal of Political Ecology 11: 43-58.

Walsh, Casey. 2004.  “Las Culturas de Agua”  Christus: Revista de Teología y Ciencias Humanas LXIX, No. 743: 22-23.

Walsh, Casey. 2004. “Eugenic Acculturation: Manuel Gamio, Migration Studies, and the Anthropology of Development in Mexico, 1910-1940.”  Latin American Perspectives 31(5): 118-145.

Walsh, Casey. 2004. “Las Culturas de Agua.” Hacia una gestión integral del agua en México: Retos y alternativas. Cecilia Tortajada, Vicente Guerrero and Ricardo Sandoval, editors. Mexico: Third World Centre for Water Management / Porrúa. Pp. 433-455.

Walsh, Casey. 2004. “Algodón y la Frontera México- Estados Unidos.” Fronteiras: paisagens, personagens, culturas.  Horacio Gutierrez, Maria Aparecida de S. Lopes and Marcia Naxara, editors. Sao Paolo, Brasil: Universidade Estadual Paulista, Campus Franca. Pp. 133-158.

Walsh, Casey y Elizabeth Ferry. 2003. “Introduction: Production, Power and Place.” The Social Relations of Mexican Commodities: Power, Production and Place.  Walsh, Casey et. al. San Diego: Center for US-Mexican Studies, Universidad de California, San Diego. Pp. 1-18.

Walsh, Casey. 2003. “‘A Rosy Future’: Cotton and Regional Development in Mexico’s Northern Borderlands, 1920-1965” The Social Relations of Mexican Commodities: Power, Production and Place.  Walsh, Casey et. al. San Diego: Center for US-Mexican Studies, Universidad de California, San Diego. Pp. 19-54.