The University of Arizona

"A world we don't know": the spatial configuration of sensory practices and production of knowledge in and around Mexican seismic monitoring

Elizabeth Reddy



A single technoscientific knowledge project can entail many different kinds of knowledge production. Here, I show how a Mexican technoscientific knowledge project about seismicity requires diverse sensory practices and the production of knowledge about many kinds of environmental and social conditions. I argue that Mexican territorial politics frame this knowledge. Further, I demonstrate that these politics become evident in the very ways that knowledge about Mexico is configured spatially, that is, in topological and topographic ways that technicians and engineers come to understand and relate to Mexican territory. After situating this argument within contemporary critical attention to the production of geographic knowledge, I address it ethnographically. First, I describe how Mexican seismic monitoring is undertaken from the headquarters of the Centro de Instrumentación y Registro Sísmico (CIRES). Then, I deal with the arrangements of power that structure seismic monitoring and social conditions in what CIRES engineers and technicians call "the field." As I relate the sensory work and knowledge production that field teams do when they leave CIRES headquarters, I show how the things that field teams can know are shaped by territorial politics, and consequently reflect them.

Key Words: Mexico, environmental monitoring, sense, knowledge, earthquakes

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