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Political Science - Mexico

Research topics


Sediments in the Usumacinta transboundary river basin: a political analysis of a natural and economical resource

Studied by engineering, geomorphology, hydrology and by parts of biology, sediments are opening their field of research to Social Sciences and Humanities although the literature is still extremely scarce.
This research deals with analysing political dimensions of sediments in the Usumacinta transboundary river basin shared by Mexico and Guatemala, perceived first as a natural resource and as a perpetual element of aquatic ecosystems by local population. Sediments are also posed as an economical resource because law and different stakeholders related with their management conceptualise them as “stone and building materials” and at local scale are identified through home-grown notions, since the sediment notion is almost unknown.
This project is based on the realisation of semi-structured interviews with diverse stakeholders, the observation of extractive activities on the rivers and riverbanks and the revision of historical sources and legal frameworks. Primary and secondary sources will be used for the research on the Mexican side of the Usumacinta watershed.
Politics and policies related with sediments will enable to explore conflicts linked with their extraction –sand, gravel, river stone and silt- and relations between the formal law framework and local practices, that are deeply complex and the different regulatory systems. It will also reveal the understanding of some local stakeholders’ role, the relations between governments (federal, states and municipalities) and local inhabitants, the interactions between existing organisations and policies. It will eventually present some elements when the river is operating as a fluvial border and some specific transboundary realities of sediment extraction in this case.

Activities / Resume


Edith Kauffer is a senior professor and researcher at the Centro de Investigaciones y Estudios Superiores en Antropología Social (Centre of Research and Superior Studies in Social Anthropology) (CIESAS) in San Cristobal de Las Casas, Chiapas, in Southern Mexico.
As a political scientist, she has studied refugees in Central America and in the South of Mexico and analyses refugees’ policies and Guatemalans’ return political project between 1991 and 2002. From 2003, she focused her research on water politics and policy issues: water policies, waters and borders, transboundary river basins, conflicts and cooperation, gender and water, water and power. Her fieldwork experience took place in various regions mainly in Central America, Mexico, the Mediterranean but also in Western Africa, South and North America, and Europe. She participated in diverse activities of training with NGOs and grass roots organisations, civil servants from local, states and national governments as well as international organisations in different Latin American countries on water, climate change, gender and refugees topics.

As she has always worked with colleagues from diverse disciplines of social sciences and humanities, but also biologists and engineers, her approach emphasises dialog between sciences and stakeholders’ collaboration. In this context, she recently incorporated into a bilateral, interdisciplinary and interinstitutional project between Mexico and France, which is part of her residence in Lyon.


Peer-reviewed articles

  • 2020: Harlan Koff, Carmen Maganda and Edith Kauffer, "Transboundary water diplomacy among small states: a giant dilemma for Central American regionalism", Water International, pp. 1-17. DOI:
  • 2020: Edith Kauffer, and Ludivina Mejía González. "De la descolonización a la Gestión Integrada de Recursos Hídricos (GIRH): la política del agua de Belice a través del tiempo (1981-2015)." Gestión y Política Pública, vol. XXIX, 1, pp 37-66. DOI:
  • 2019: Edith Kauffer and Carmen Maganda, “Cross-border basins today and forever”, Regions and Cohesion, 9(1), pp. 3-7: DOI:
  • 2017: Edith Kauffer, “Contrasting water securities: the Mexican state facing downstream stakeholders in the Suchiate transboundary river basin”, International Journal of Water Resources Development, DOI:
  • 2017: Edith Kauffer, Lucile Medina, Tania Rodríguez, "La gestion partagée des bassins hydrographiques transfrontaliers en Mésoamérique, source d’innovation dans la gouvernance de la coopération." Mondes en développement, 77 (1), pp. 47-61: DOI: 10.3917/med.177.0047
  • 2014: Edith Kauffer, “Conflits et coopération dans les bassins versants transfrontaliers en Amérique Centrale et
au sud du Mexique: du Lempa à l’Usumacinta”, Regions and Cohesion, 4 (2), pp. 30-53.
  • 2012: Edith Kauffer, “Des négotiations internationales aux stratégies locales: la politique climatique du Mexique, entre défense de l’équité internationale et oubli des dimensions nationale et sociale”, Territoire en mouvement, Revue de géographie et d’aménagement, Nº 14-15, pp. 3-20. DOI: https://doi/10.4000/tem.1708
  • 2006: Edith Kauffer, “Le Mexique et l’eau: de la disponibilité naturelle aux différents types de rareté”, Géocarrefour, 81 (1), pp. 61-72. DOI:
  • 2002: Edith F. Kauffer Michel, “Leadership and Social Organization: the Integration of the Guatemalan Refugees in Campeche, Mexico”, Journal of Refugee Studies, 15 (4), pp. 359-387: DOI:
  • 2001: Edith F. Kauffer Michel, “L’intégration des réfugiés guatémaltèques au Mexique et leur transformation progressive en acteurs autonomes”, Refuge, 20 (1), pp. 30-39.
  • 2001: Edith F. Kauffer Michel, “Le HCR au Mexique: 20 ans de présence”, Refuge, 19 (5), pp. 62-68.
  • 1999: Edith Kauffer, “Religieux et politique au Guatemala. De la convergence des intérêts à la réciprocité des influences”, Histoire et Sociétés de l’Amérique Latine, 9 (1), 1999, pp. 139-175.

Peer-reviewed chapters in edited volumes

  • 2019: Edith Kauffer, “From the Abundance of Waters to the Scarcity of Studies: Contemplating Hydropolitics in Mexico-Guatemala and in Mexico-Belize Borders”, in Hilda R. Guerrero García Rojas (Ed.), Water policy in Mexico. Economic, Institutional and Environmental Considerations, Springer, Cham, pp. 237-262.
  • 2013: María Luisa Torregrosa, Ramón Domínguez Mora, Blanca Jiménez Cisneros, Edith Kauffer Michel, Polioptro Martínez Austria, José Luis Montesillo Cedillo, Jacinta Palerm Viqueira, Adolfo Román Calleros, Laura C. Ruelas Mojardin & Emma Zapata Martelo (2013), “Water resources in Mexico: situation and prospects” in Blanca Jiménez-Cisneros, José Galizia-Tundisi (Eds.), Diagnosis of Water in the Americas, Interamerican Network of Academies of Science, Mexican Academy of Science, Mexico, pp. 395-458. Retrieved from :
  • 2001: Edith Kauffer, “Politiques d’intervention auprès des réfugiés guatémaltèques au Mexique : du retour à l’intégration”, in Luc Cambrézy, Véronique Lassailly-Jacob, Luc Cambrézy (Eds.), Populations réfugiées. De l’exil au retour, Institut de Recherche pour le Développement, Paris, p. 233-268.

Peer reviewed books and edited volumes

  • 2019: Edith F. Kauffer Michel (coord.), Las dimensiones políticas de los recursos hídricos: miradas cruzadas en torno a aguas turbulentas, México, CIESAS, Biblioteca del Agua, ISBN 978-607-486-509-7.
  • 2000: Edith Kauffer, Les réfugiés guatémaltèques au Chiapas. Le retour du peuple du maïs, Un projet politique, Editorial L’Harmattan, París, Francia, 320 p, ISBN 2-7384-8956-7.

Additional informations