Pablo Aguilera Del Castillo

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Pennsylvania, U. of

Grant number

Gr. 10206

Approve Date

October 7, 2021

Project Title

Aguilera Del Castillo, Pablo (Pennsylvania, U. of) "Subterranean Expertise: Emergent Performances of Spatial Sovereignty in the Construction of Political Autonomy in Yucatan, Mexico"

My research investigates the emergent relations between scientists, archaeologists, lawyers, government officials and the karst aquifer system in Yucatan, Mexico. Building on theorizations of sovereignty as an everyday performance, I examine expert knowledge of the underground as a performance of spatial sovereignty within this subterranean environment. As an assemblage of sinkholes, geological fractures, large cave systems, and underground water currents, the karst aquifer exceeds any simple analysis as a homogenous, well-delineated, bounded space. An amorphous and illegible zone, the subterranean is rendered perceptible by experts through new practices, discourses, and objects, which are increasingly mobilized by Yucatecans as claims of territoriality vis-à-vis the state. Taking this aquifer system as a contested space for ideological struggle for hegemony, my research analyzes the emergence of material, discursive, and affective relations between Yucatecan experts and the underground. I analyze how different spatial performances create special geographic imaginaries to ask: How do Yucatecan experts participate in the construction of alternative projects of autonomy and self-determination in the region? Through ethnographic work, I analyze local expert knowledge—practices, discourses, and objects—as central not just in the perpetuation of state power, but also in the construction of local political autonomy and self-determination for Yucatecans.