American Ethnological Society
Oral Presentation Session
This paper explores how young people position themselves in relation to promises of technology and progress during a time of political transition in Mexico. My fieldwork takes place between 2013 and 2017, just before a newly formed leftist political party gained power after a century of rule by Mexico’s “revolutionary” party. For self-identified “disenchanted” youth in Mexico, skeptical of the promises of social mobility by means of formal education, “hacking” emerged as a way to make sense of their futures in a precarious state and economy, and as a way to let their “code work” intervene in narratives that had only delivered false hopes. Co-working spaces, hackathons, entrepreneurial initiatives, and neoliberal “reforms” were seldom differentiated by politicians. By immersing themselves in the code that underlies the technologies that promise developmentalist change, I show how fundamental coding principles become good to think with, alongside the institutions and systems that function as elements in state-driven infrastructures that spatialize unequal opportunities, iteration after iteration. Hacker-entrepreneurs used their code work to develop heuristics for analyzing the organization of entities and relationship between them, whether they are elements in a coding environment or actors in a political-economic environment.