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Dean Chahim

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Dean Chahim

Dissertation Writer
Research Interests: 
Urban political ecology, STS, water, infrastructures, expertise, urban geography, political economy, "development," the state, engineering, materiality, environmental history, risk, space, Mexico, Latin America


My research seeks to explain how plans for infinite urban growth and "development" are maintained in light of ostensibly finite environments. I am particularly interested in the role of engineers in giving such plans for growth a material form while justifying them through an authoritative technical discourse, even at times against their own convictions. My project focuses on the Mexico City metropolitan area, which was once the posterchild for the coming urban environmental apocalypse but is now the site of a high-end construction boom.  Through research with water engineers attempting to somehow make the water system "work" and urban residents challenging displacement and declining water services, I aim to unravel how urban growth has been made possible and contested in a city that many fear will run out of water - or be swallowed by catastrophic floods.

I graduated with a B.S.C.E. in Civil & Environmental Engineering and a B.A. with Honors in International Development & Social Change from the University of Washington. For my B.A., I conducted qualitative research in Nicaragua on the depoliticizing effects of foreign funding on local NGOs. After graduating, I had the privilege to receive funding to travel and learn with people across ten countries in the global South. Upon returning, I worked as an environmental engineer cleaning up contaminated land and water while volunteering as a community organizer with low-wage immigrant workers in Seattle. See for more details.