I am broadly interested in the aesthetic dimension of politics, specifically in the state’s authority to envision and fabricate ‘a common world of perceiving’ through the shifting delimitation or ‘partition’ of borders between the visible and the invisible.

These ideas are at the center of the conceptual framework of my first book, titled ‘Visible Ruins: The Politics of Perception and the Legacies of Mexico’s Revolution.’ It is a historical ethnography that revolves around the afterlife of the post-revolutionary regime in the lives of those living among its visible material remains. Pushing back against the state’s efforts to dismiss the vitality of its own revolutionary project, this book reveals and problematizes its endurance. However, it focuses not on the persistence of a nationalist mythology, as existing studies do, but on the material traces (agrarian documents, oil infrastructures, an archaeological monument, and a collection of ethnographic photographs) of the various revolutionary schemes — land redistribution, economic nationalism, and indigenismo — implemented in the lowlands of northern Veracruz. By attending to the ruins of these state-led interventions, I expose how the post-revolutionary state established governing (yet contested) modes of visibility that have defined who and what are recognizable (or not) in the social and material landscape. I argue that the power of the post-revolutionary regime has been exerted and reproduced, even in the aftermath of its downfall, through these aesthetic configurations, which are an understudied and lasting outcome of Mexico’s post-revolutionary state- and nation-building efforts.

My second book project also examines the politics of perception. ‘Material Witnesses: The Forensic Archiving of Bones and the Animation of the Dead in Contemporary Mexico’ is an ethnographic investigation into the Mexican state’s handling of drug-related violence through the AM/PM database, a standardized forensic database developed to register, store, and transmit information about missing and dead bodies. Conceived as a memory technology, the implementation of the AM/PM database raises questions about the stakes of knowledge production and memory shaping around the dead. How are human remains reconfigured and materialized through forensic technologies and bureaucratic practices? How do these new measures render certain aspects of death visible or invisible? How does the AM/PM database affect individual and collective memory? As human remains navigate scientific and bureaucratic encounters, what possibilities do they enable, afford, provoke, or constrain?

By undertaking an excavation that does not begin with digging down but rather moving up through dissonant bureaucratic spaces and practices, my goal is to reveal how complex networks between the living and the dead are held together through multiple forensic socio-technical practices. I suggest that by focusing on the practices and techniques through which human remains are constituted and negotiated as both racialized persons and things, subjects and objects, meanings and matter, we can better understand not only current processes of mourning and historicization, silencing and assertion, but also the long-standing processes of normalizing violence.

Moreover, I am continuing to advance my research on the visual history of Latin America. On one hand, I have expanded my research on ethnographic photography and the transnational production of indigenous alterity in Mexico. On the other hand, I delve into the visual cultures related to the oil industry in Mexico. Specifically, my research on oil is carried out in collaboration with OCMELA (Oil Cultures of the Middle East and Latin America). This interdisciplinary and cross-regional research group aims to decenter the petroleum Global North paradigm, which has dominated energy humanities and studies on petrocultures and societies in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

Image Credit: Detail, Pirámide de los Nichos, 1924, Archivo Técnico del Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia, Mexico City, vol. I, 1924-1935, Tomo CXXV, Tajín, Estado de Veracruz.