Talk on Paraguay, and the politics of measurement at COA

Posted Jan. 21, 2013, at 12:07 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 21, 2013, at 1:05 p.m.

Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2013 4:10 p.m. to 4:10 p.m.

Location: College of the Atlantic - McCormick Lecture Hall, 105 Eden Street, Bar Harbor, Maine

For more information: John Visvader; 207-288-5015;

Generally, obtaining measurements is considered an objective undertaking, certainly not a political act. But in Paraguay the process helped to bring down the government. At 4:10 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 29, College of the Atlantic is presenting a talk titled, “Making Paraguay Real: The Politics of Measurement in the Age of Regulation.” The talk, by political anthropologist Kregg Hetherington, will be in McCormick Lecture Hall as part of the college’s Human Ecology Forum.

“Talk to any state functionary in Paraguay in 2012 and you will soon begin to hear about new standards of measurement being adopted or imposed in an attempt to overcome national shortcomings and foster modern development,” says Hetherington, PhD, who teaches at Concordia University in Montreal, and specializes in environmental conflict, regulation, the bureaucratic state, and international development in Latin America. According to Hetherington, these individuals define the technicalities of credit measurement standards and create the reality against which political claims and grievances are judged.

In Paraguay, an intense political controversy arose out of the agency that regulates the health of plants, and determines which plants are free of pests and which need to be quarantined. The fallout contributed to the fall of a government—despite the fact that government opponents had no real quarrel with the way the agency carried out its technical work.

Hetherington’s recent book, Guerrilla Auditors, is an ethnography of peasant land struggles in Paraguay, and of how rural thinking about property and information come into conflict with bureaucratic reform projects promoted by international experts. He holds a PhD from the University of California at Davis and focuses his research on how environmental and economic knowledge becomes politicized during periods of rapid social change, creating divergent forms of expertise. Hetherington is currently looking into the work of Paraguayan bureaucrats and technicians, and on how the soybean boom in Paraguay is transforming both the terrain of rural struggle and the shape of the state.

For more information on the 4:10 p.m. Jan. 29 talk by political anthropologist Kregg Hetherington, contact Heath Cabot at 288-5015, or, or visit

College of the Atlantic was founded in 1969 on the premise that education should go beyond understanding the world as it is, to enabling students to actively shape its future. A leader in experiential education and environmental stewardship, COA has pioneered a distinctive interdisciplinary approach to learning—human ecology—that develops the kinds of creative thinkers and doers needed by all sectors of society in addressing the compelling and growing needs of our world. For more, visit