Dr. Kathleen O’Reilly is an associate professor of geography and member of the faculty of the Water Management and Hydrological Sciences Program and the Women and Gender Studies Program at Texas A&M University and a consultant with Iris Group. She is a feminist geographer and South Asia scholar with extensive WASH field experience. Using a political ecology approach and ethnographic methods, she studies the implications of changing water resource governance and the impacts of sanitation interventions for marginal groups, particularly women and lowest castes. Her research is based in India, where she has worked for the past 20 years.
Kathleen’s earliest research focused on community and women’s participation in drinking water supply management, and was followed up in 2008 with a study investigating drinking water sustainability after the project’s closure. The National Science Foundation supported research across 2005-2009 explored the effects of development projects for the NGOs fieldworkers who implement them, and resulted in a better understanding of how global-scale development policies are locally transformed and spatialized through the actions of NGO fieldworkers.
More recently Kathleen’s focus has shifted to sanitation. Her research project titled "Human Waste and Human Welfare: A Political Ecology Approach to Sanitation in Rural India" is funded by NSF CAREER Award (2010- 2016). It is a multi-sited study that aims to identify the ecological factors, social norms, economic contexts, and everyday political geographies influencing the building and usage latrines in rural India. At its heart, the study asks the question, "Why do people who have latrines not use them?"
A second project titled "Successful Sanitation Habits in Rural India" was funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (2011- 2014). This project examined successful sanitation habits across generations in two rural Indian states.