Self-devouring Urbanism: (Im)mobilities, Chokepoints, and Capitalist Crises in Mexico City

Mon April 20th 2020, 12:30pm
Via Zoom, Meeting ID 908 135 579
Please Note: This brown bag is password protected.  If you did not receive the flyer to this brown bag but would like to attend, please contact the brown bag coordinators.  
Presenter:  Dean Chahim
PhD Candidate, Department of Anthropology

In Mexico City, the expansion of transportation and logistics infrastructures needed to keep goods and labor pulsing through the megacity have made it increasingly difficult to keep the city’s streets above water. Given the limited open space in the city, crucial dams, canals, and other drainage infrastructures have been paved over by highways, airports, and logistics hubs for the sake of the mobility of capital. As David Harvey argues, such investments in the mobility of capital are part of a “spatial fix” essential to forestall crises of over-accumulation. Yet they threaten, instead, to precipitate a different kind of crisis as they create chokepoints throughout the city’s drainage system, which cause floods that can immobilize the city during even moderate rainstorms. In this talk, I examine the material work of engineers and residents to accommodate the consequences of these spatial fixes, making it possible to imagine – for a time – the continued growth of the city. Drawing unexpected parallels between the work of Julie Livingston and Marxian theories of capitalist crises, I suggest ways to think about the dogged persistence of a kind of “self-devouring urbanism” in Mexico City, which threatens to undermine the very environmental conditions of possibility of urban life.