My research broadly considers the relationship of artistic form and practice to shifts in the design and administration of territory. I work principally in the contexts of Brazil and Mexico since the 1960s, an ambit defined by an unsettling of the correspondence between nation and territory along with the globalization of capital. While the contemporary period has undoubtedly witnessed an expanded global circulation of cultural forms and commodities, I am most interested in the materiality of territory—of land, infrastructure, and built environment—as a site of friction detected both in the content of artworks as well as in the techniques of their production.
A core area of my research exmines the links between racial and gender formations, territorial infrastructures, and aesthetics. I have written on Brazilian documentary films which encapsulate tensions between indigenous concepts of territory, the country’s legal institutions, and present modalities of extraction ⇥ as well as on how contemporary Mexican novels rethink categories of nature and culture in light of the territorial effects of free trade, narcotrafficking, and tourism ⇥ . In both contexts, I am interested in how identity categories are embedded in—and contested from—built environments and infrastructures.
I am presently conducting research for my doctoral dissertation, tentatively titled Design Thresholds: Aesthetics and the Politics of Planning in Mexico City and São Paulo, 1967-85. The project contends that the emergence of these “megacities”—which anticipated urbanization trends across the Global South in subsequent decades—provoked revision in the relationship of technical expertise to aesthetic form as cultivated under modernism. Arguing against a narrative of rupture that purports an “end to modernism” and along with it, the utopian aspirations of urbanism and design, I instead suggest that the most incisive interventions of the period reconceptualized both the subject and object of design via political and theoretical engagements with subalternity. These design practices—and their manifestions in architecture, film, and visual art—put modernist commitments to test through heterogenous social encounters that challenged vertical, developmentalist concepts of planning.
The dissertation both animates the archives of cultural production from these two cities during the “long seventies,” with an emphasis on so-called marginal zones, and at the same time proposes concepts for urban design amidst a broader transition from industrial to flexible capital accumulation in the terrain of the city.