Current Institutional Affiliation
Doctoral Candidate, University of California / Santa Cruz

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2013
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Anthropology, University of California / Santa Cruz
The Veins of the Nation: Progress and Decay in Argentina's Railroad System

Argentina has the largest railroad system in Latin America, currently encompassing 34,000 kilometers of tracks (nearly nine times the length of the country). The history of trains in Argentina is intimately tied to state-making efforts to pacify and "whiten" the nation, and to different historical moments of progress and decay. Trains occupy a central place in national imaginaries and are seen as the "veins of the nation", connecting people and bringing life to out-of-the-way places. Today, dilapidated trains continue to be used by a large proportion of urban and suburban dwellers for commuting purposes, resulting in all-too-frequent accidents. In some parts of the country, trains have stopped running altogether, leading to accusations of "ferricide", the killing of the national railroad system. Yet trains are also being recast by politicians as machines that will propel Argentina into global modernity. Through multi-sited ethnographic research in the capital city of Buenos Aires and in the phantom town of Laguna Paiva, this project will show how trains are used to materialize and contest spatial and racial projects of nationhood. By engaging closely with the cartographies of progress and decay and with the social and material life of railroads, this project will show how, in the wake of economic crisis and political instability, everyday life in Argentina is being remade around trains.