I am an anthropologist, environmental engineer and photographer. I am currently completing a PhD in Stanford University's Department of Anthropology. My research is aimed at understanding engineering as a social practice, and the complex ways that engineering reshapes social and political possibilities. I am broadly interested in the social study of technology, capitalism, cities, and the environment.
For my dissertation, I study engineers, urbanization, and the management of water (particularly flooding) in Mexico City from the 1950s to the present. I have been asked to speak about the water crisis in Mexico City for major media outlets like the BBC, NPR, and RFl. I am working with Mexican colleagues to create an online, interactive spatial documentary about flooding, Las Huellas del Agua / Watermarks.
As an educator, I am committed to cultivating critical thinking about technology, “development,” and the environment, both among budding social scientists and engineers, who rarely get the chance to reflect on what a socially just engineering might look like (see the course I co-developed here). I am passionate about fostering a critical dialogue between engineering and the social sciences around urgent problems without reducing the complexity of either field.
Prior to starting my PhD, I received a B.S.C.E. in Civil and Environmental Engineering and the B.A. in International Development at the University of Washington. After graduation, I worked professionally as an environmental engineer cleaning up toxic chemicals from land and water around my hometown of Seattle while volunteering as an organizer with low-wage Latino workers struggling against wage theft.
I have worked on international development projects (however problematic in retrospect) with Engineers Without Borders in Bolivia, published academic research on the shortcomings of foreign-funding for NGOs in Nicaragua, studied the Dari and Tajiki languages in Tajikistan, and traveled across ten countries in the global South after graduating, supported by a Bonderman travel fellowship offered through the University of Washington Honors Program.
Closer to home, I co-founded and facilitated a organization while at the University of Washington to create a critical dialogue around international development and engagement, and I continue to educate and write about global inequality. I devote much of my free time to working with grassroots community groups struggling for the rights of immigrants, workers, tenants, and the environment.
When I have time, I love to cook for friends and family, drawing most heavily on a mix of recipes and techniques ranging from North Africa to India.
Interested in my work, collaborating, or just have a question? Contact me at dean DOT chahim AT gmail.com, or via the form below.