Instabilities: an Ethnography of Mexican Earth and Expertise

by Elizabeth Anne Reddy

Institution: University of California – Irvine
Year: 2016
Keywords: Cultural anthropology; Earthquake; Environment; Mexico; Science and Technology Studies
Posted: 02/05/2017
Record ID: 2126811
Full text PDF: http://www.escholarship.org/uc/item/12f0g2kh


The deadly Mexican earthquake disaster of 1985 still looms in personal and institutionalmemory and makes credible seismic threats still to come. Earthquake early warningtechnologies, developed in its wake, have implications for not only publics at risk and thedistribution of power and authority among experts in the seismic community, but, finally,for what Foucault has called the security apparatus of the Mexican state.In this dissertation, I explore the relations between earthquakes and technoscientificknowledge when public welfare is at stake. I argue that as the disparate experts of theseismic community of Mexico and around the world develop and debate earthquake earlywarning technologies, they make geophysical energies moving through the material worldmeaningful. With careful attention to the everyday meaningful imbrications of geologicaland social worlds and the forces, practices, tools, ideas, and institutions which constitutethem garnered through research methods including participant observation, surveys,interviews, and archival research, I investigate how expert work and seismicity, bothimportantly unstable, produce the conditions of possibility for political encounters with themoving earth.