Society for Cultural Anthropology
Oral Presentation Session
Recently, the Yucatan Peninsula has witnessed the development of various forms of infrastructure in response to emergent notions of risk. From renewable energies—wind and solar—to biological corridors and bio-cultural reserves, different notions of risk are driving various kinds of infrastructural development in the region. In this paper, I propose to explore the mediating role of “risk” in these processes. I do so by attending to the ways in which the media, scientists, and Maya community members quantify and qualify degrees of risk. Taking Kockelman’s work (2016) as a point of departure, I interrogate how issues of commensurability, grading, and equivalence are central in understanding intensities of risk and its constitutive place in infrastructure development. More specifically, I plan to examine how grounds, figures and qualities of comparison are used in evaluating and managing degrees of biological and social value in the process of planning and regulating infrastructures. Ultimately, through the study of these processes of valuation, comparison, quantification and qualification, I analyze how scientific and expert knowledge is continually produced through specific communicative acts and grading practices. In so doing, I illustrate how notions of environmental similarity and difference in the Yucatan Peninsula are reflected and shaped in ongoing process of grading differences.