Memoria y Sociedad
Print version ISSN 0122-5197
CHAZARO GARCIA, Laura. Traveling through the Body and the National Territory: Tools, Measures and Politics in the Late 19th Century in Mexico. Mem. Soc. [online]. 2009, vol.13, n.27, pp. 101-119. ISSN 0122-5197.
This text juxtaposes medical practices involving the measurement of bodies and the topographic and geodesic surveys carried out by engineers in late 19th-century Mexico. In an era known for generating measurements, these two histories converged: body and territory became objects of knowledge and control, two surfaces whose respective geometries spoke of the national space. To measure them, physicians and engineers used instruments whose characteristics assured their circulation between America and Europe and within Mexico, where they produced objective, interchangeable, standardized measures; but they were the result of an interrelation: that of the people who measured, the instrument and that which was measured, so although their uses were normative and standardized they generated values both situated and local in nature that responded to contemporary political demands: measuring bodies meant dimensioning races and gender; while surveying territories meant delimiting communal properties in order to create private ones. I argue that both types of measurement embodied epistemic practices that presupposed evaluation and perspective.
Keywords : Mathematical and Medical Instruments; Scientific objectivity; Standardization; Local knowledge; Geographical Exploration Commission; Mexico; National Territory; México; Polítical Development; 19th Century; Property.