Austin Lord

Postdoctoral Fellow


Areas of Interest

  • Disaster and climate risk management
  • Water, energy, and infrastructural politics
  • Environmental governance and environmental justice
  • Sociocultural dimensions of post-disaster recovery
  • Climate change impacts and adaptation, reckoning ‘loss and damage’
  • Climate science in the Himalayan cryosphere
  • Cascading hazards and intersecting vulnerabilities
  • Social and environmental change in the Himalayan bioregion
  • Environmental data, modeling, and knowledge production
  • Ethical questions of development and sustainability
  • The politics of risk and uncertainty

Fields of Study

  • Anthropology
  • Critical Disaster Studies
  • Science and Technology Studies
  • Political Ecology & Human Geography
  • Human-Computer Interaction


Austin is an environmental anthropologist who studies disaster, water resource management, energy policy, climate change, critical infrastructure, and the politics of environmental knowledge production. His work focuses on the Himalayan bioregion, and primarily in Nepal. He joined the University of Toronto after receiving his Ph.D. in Anthropology from Cornell University and a M.S. from the Yale School of the Environment.

Austin’s doctoral dissertation examined the ways in which the people of Nepal’s Langtang Valley worked to rebuild their lives and navigate vital uncertainties in the wake of the devastating glacier avalanche disaster that occurred there in April 2015, during the Gorkha Earthquake. This work was informed by long-term ethnographic research conducted over a period of seven years, two years of direct community engagement focused on post-disaster recovery, collaborative work on archival and multimedia projects in Langtang, and his experiences as a fellow survivor of the Langtang Disaster.

At the University of Toronto, Austin is working with Dr. Robert Soden on research projects focused on climate change impacts and adaptation, the making of climate change and disaster data, the politics of disaster risk reduction, and modes of environmental governance under conditions of uncertainty. He is also a team member of the Toronto Climate Observatory: an interdisciplinary initiative that seeks to reimagine how communities in the Greater Toronto Area (and beyond) understand and adapt to the impacts of climate change in accountable, contextually situated, equitable, and action-driven ways. Austin enjoys collaborating with colleagues in the fields of science and technology studies, computer science (human-computer interaction), human and physical geography, political science, the environmental humanities, and the visual arts.

Austin’s work is funded by an Arts & Science Postdoctoral Fellowship.


2022-2024, Arts & Science Postdoctoral Fellowship, University of Toronto
2021, Sadov Family Fellowship, Cornell University
2020, James F. Slevin Teaching Award, Knight Writing Institute at Cornell University
2019-2020, Fulbright-Hays DDRA Fellow, Nepal
2018, Lemelson Fellow, Society for Visual Anthropology
2016-2018, U.S. Foreign Language & Area Studies Fellow, Nepal
2014-2015, Fulbright Scholar, Nepal

Publications (Selected)

Academic Publications

Lord. A. (2022). Vital Uncertainties: Disaster, Afterlives, and Change in the Langtang Valley. PhD Dissertation, Anthropology. Cornell University: Ithaca, NY.

Lord, A. & Rest, M. (2021) Nepal’s Water, the People’s Investment? Hydropolitical Volumes and Speculative Refrains. Ethnographies of Power: A Political Anthropology of Energy. Loloum, T., Abram, S., and Ortar, N. (Eds.). Oxford, UK: Berghahn Books. 

Lord, A. & Bradley, J. (2021). Gathering Absences and Presences: Memory Work, Photography, and Affective Recovery in the Langtang Valley. Epicentre to Aftermath: Rebuilding and Remembering in the Wake of Nepal’s Earthquakes. Hutt, M., Lotter, S. and Liechty, M. (Eds.). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.  

Lord, A., Drew, G., & Gergan, M.D. (2020). Timescapes of Himalayan Hydropower: Promises, Project Life Cycles, and Precarity. WIREs Water 7 (6), e1469.
Murton, G. and Lord, A. (2020) Trans-Himalayan Power Corridors: Infrastructural Politics and China’s Belt and Road Initiative in Nepal. Political Geography 77, 102100. 

Lord, A. (2019). Turbulence. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space (Online), Volumetric Sovereignty: A Forum. March 17, 2019.

Lord, A. (2018) Speculation and Seismicity: Reconfiguring the Hydropower Future in Post-Earthquake Nepal. Water, Technology and the Nation-State. F. Menga & E. Swyngedouw. London: Routledge Earthscan.

Soden, R. & Lord, A. (2018). Mapping Silences, Reconfiguring Loss: Practices of Damage Assessment & Repair in Post-Earthquake Nepal. Proceedings of the ACM on Human-Computer Interaction, Vol. 2, CSCW, Article 161, November 2018. [Best Paper Award, Honorable Mention]

Lord, A. (2017). Humility and Hubris in Hydropower. Limn, Issue 9: Little Development Devices / Humanitarian Goods: 42-53.

Lord, A. and Murton, G. (2017). Becoming Rasuwa Relief: Practices of Multiple Engagement in Post-Earthquake Nepal. HIMALAYA: The Journal of the Association for Nepal and Himalayan Studies 37(2), pp. 87-102.

Murton, G., Lord, A., and Beazley, R. (2016). “A Handshake Across the Himalayas": Chinese Investment, Hydropower Development, and State Formation in Nepal. Eurasian Geography and Economics 57(3), pp. 403-432.

Lord, A. (2016). Citizens of a Hydropower Nation: Territory and Agency at the Frontiers of Hydropower Development in Nepal. Economic Anthropology 3(1), pp. 145–160.

Shneiderman, S., Wagner, L., Rinck, J., Johnson, A.L., and Lord, A. (2016). Nepal's Ongoing Political Transformation: A Review of Post-2006 Literature on Conflict, the State, Identities, and Environments. Modern Asian Studies 50(6), pp. 2041-2114.

Lord, A. (2014). Making a "Hydropower Nation": Subjectivity, Work, and Mobility in the Hydroscapes of Nepal. HIMALAYA: The Journal of the Association for Nepal & Himalayan Studies, 34(2), pp. 111-121.

Professional Publications & Public Scholarship

Eyler, B., Lord, A., Kwan, R., Aamer, F., Weatherby, C., et al (2022). Developing an Early Warning System for Debris Floods and Extreme Flow Events in Nepal. The Stimson Center: Washington D.C.

Lord A. (2020). Immensity. Cultural Anthropology website, Visual & New Media Review. December 23, 2020.

Lord A. (2020) Cultivating Disaster Literacy: Concepts, Ethics, Vulnerabilities, Temporalities. Teaching Statement, Knight Institute for Writing, Cornell University.

Lord, A. (2020) The Courage and Endurance of the Langtangpa. The Nepali Times, April 25, 2020. 

Lord, A. & Bennett, K. (2019) Strategic Considerations for River Conservation Legislation in Nepal. USAID Paani Program & Nepal River Conservation Trust: Kathmandu. 

Bennett, K., Lord, A., Shah, D. N., & Ale, M. (2019) The Karnali River Corridor Management Framework. USAID Paani Program & Nepal River Conservation Trust: Kathmandu.

Lord, A. and Moktan, S. (2017)  Uncertain Aftermath: The Political Impacts of the 2015 Earthquakes in Nepal.  ACCORD, Issue 26: The Nepal Peace Process. London: Conciliation Resources, pp. 128-132.
Lord, A. (2017) Review of ‘Trembling Mountain’, A Documentary Film by Kesang Tseten, Shunyata Films, 2017. HIMALAYA: The Journal of the Association for Nepal and Himalayan Studies 37(2), Article 26.     

Lord, A. (2017)  水电国公民:尼泊尔水利发展前沿中的地域性与能动性 -- A Translation of Lord, A. 2016.‘Citizens of a Hydropower Nation: Territory and Agency at the Frontiers of Hydropower Development in Nepal’. Book Chapter in 环喜马拉雅区域研究编译 文集 Vol.1——环境、生计与文化 or Trans-Himalayan Study Reader, Vol. 1: Environment, Livelihood and Culture. D.S. Yu, L. Yunxia, and Z. Li, Eds. Beijing: Academy Press. 

Lord, A., Sijapati, B., Baniya, J., Chand, O., and Ghale, T. (2016). Disaster, Disability, & Difference: A Study of the Challenges Faced by Persons with Disabilities in Post-Earthquake Nepal. United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Nepal: Kathmandu. 

Shrestha, P., Lord, A., Shrestha, R., and Mukherji, A. (2016) Benefit Sharing and Sustainable Hydropower: Lessons from Nepal. International Center for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD): Kathmandu.  

Rest, M., Lord, A., and Butler, C. (2015).The Damage Done and the Dams to Come. Cultural Anthropology website, Hotspots. October 19, 2015. 

Lord, A. (2015). Langtang. Cultural Anthropology website, Hotspots. October 19, 2015.    


PhD Anthropology, Cornell University
MSc Environmental Science, Yale School of the Environment
BA Economics & Studio Art, Dartmouth College