Susann Baez Ullberg


Short presentation

PhD in Social Anthropology and Docent/Associate Professor in Cultural Anthropology, specializing on crisis, disaster and environmental anthropology with a regional focus on Latin America.


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


I am an Associate Professor (Docent) and Senior Lecturer in Cultural Anthropology.

Since 2023 I am the Director of Studies for the undergraduate programme at the Department of Cultural Anthropology and Ethnology.

In 2023-2027, I am part of the consortium for C-Urge - Anthropology of Global Climate Urgency, a collaboration between five European universities supported by Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions to train a total of 12 PhD students in climate anthropology.

I defended my PhD in social anthropology at Stockholm University in 2013 with a doctoral thesis on the role of social memory and forgetting for vulnerability, disaster preparedness and risk management in the Argentine city of Santa Fe: Watermarks: Urban Flooding and Memoryscape in Argentina. The thesis received the Higher Education Association of Stockholm's award for outstanding scholarly achievement at the Faculty of Social Sciences that year, and was also awarded the joint first prize for best thesis in 2013 by the International Sociological Association's Disaster Studies Division.

I have worked as a researcher and teacher at the Swedish Defence University and was a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Gothenburg 2015-2017. At the Department of Cultural Anthropology and Ethnology, I am currently Director of Studies for the undergraduate programme. I am also responsible for our new course Environmental Ethnography. I am also the main supervisor for three talented PhD students in cultural anthropology: Alexander Sallstedt, Matías Menalled and Metztli Hernández.

My research interests are mainly in environmental and disaster anthropology. I am an affiliated researcher at the CNDS Centre of Natural Hazards and Disaster Science. Theoretically, I have been mostly interested in temporality - how time is socially constructed, and the importance of time for how people live and societies organise themselves in times of crisis and in between. I have conducted ethnographic studies in Europe (Sweden and Spain), but my ethnographic heart beats hardest for Latin America - I have done fieldwork in both Argentina and Peru. My current research focuses on the social life and politics of groundwater.

Between 2021-2023 I was the coordinator of the research network Aquifers in the Anthropocene with support from CIRCUS. in 2021-2022 I was also the coordinator of the Water Initiative, a shared and critical resource within the Uppsala University Sustainability Initiatives (UUSI) platform.

My publications are collected in DiVA and on Research Gate and Academia. Most of them are freely available, but if any are not, you can contact me to access them.


At present, I am engaged three strands of anthropological research with multidisciplinary collaborations; disasters, climate change and groundwater use.

Current projects:

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 (2015-2017)

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 (2015-2017)

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).


Here is an interview with me (available both in English and Swedish) from May 2023 as one of the researchers at the Department of Cultural Anthropology and Ethnology.

Key note: Del desastre natural a la crisis climática

Key note lecture Esther Hermitte 2023


Recent publications

All publications





Susann Baez Ullberg