Rafael is currently working as a Global Economic Governance Officer for the Center for Economic and Social Rights (CESR). He is a Peruvian anthropologist interested in the multiple connections of infrastructure, information, and inequality. His academic and professional work seeks to enable processes of critical activism, citizen research and democratic engagement through the deployment of physical, data and environmental infrastructures.
Previously, he served as Project Coordinator for the Territorial Planning and Accountability for Reconstruction Initiative, a project that seeked to foster citizen participation and public accountability in the aftermath of the 2017 El Niño floods in northern Peru. This programme was hosted by Propuesta Ciudadana, a coalition of ten NGOs that has been pivotal in the advancement of public accountability in tackling informational inequalities in Peru. In this role, Rafael worked with grassroots collectives, journalists, scholars and policy-makers to further citizens' legal and technical literacy, enable the participatory monitoring of public investment projects, and produce innovative research on the interactions of institutions, infrastructure, information, inequality and natural disasters.
Prior to his work at Propuesta Ciudadana, Rafael worked for nine years as an assistant researcher at the Group for the Analysis of Development (GRADE), a leading think-tank in Peru. He carried out innovative research on indigenous peoples’ prior consultation procedures, extractive industries, climate change, social movements and informal economies. A key focus of his research was the many ways that intersectional forces create social inequalities, particularly those that impose informational and technical cultures on the development of infrastructures.
From an early stage of his career, Rafael combined policy-making, activism and academic research. He has received grants from the Consortium of Economic and Social Research (CIES), the Permanent Seminar on Agrarian Research (SEPIA), the Think Tank Initiative of the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), and the Data & Society Institute. He has co-organised academic panels on Latin American techno-politics at Latin American Studies Association congresses in New York, Lima and Barcelona. In parallel, he has taught the courses Political Anthropology and Anthropology of the State at the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru (PUCP). He has published research on informal coca economies, indigenous territoriality, prior consultation, climate change and extractive industries.
Rafael is committed to advancing informational rights and commons. A fundamental aim of his work is to critically engage and disentangle “black boxes” as a matter of social inequality. By advancing citizens' agendas in data, physical and environmental infrastructure, he seeks to contribute to reducing knowledge inequities and to building public accountability.
He holds a BA in anthropology from PUCP and a MSc in Inequalities and Social Science from London School of Economics and Political Science.
I have seen change happen from the maturation of convictions, and the actions of collectives that have come to see their unequal conditions not as a given, but as the arbitrary constructs of unfair social orderings. I have seen how an Andean peasant community can challenge what counts as ‘technical’ when environmental disruption caused by a mining project has been deemed technically ‘acceptable’, or when small groups of activists come together to hold a large-scale public investment to account, by the sheer force of their claims. Change is the effect of a right being performed.
Rafael Barrio de Mendoza Zevallos