Building the Lettered City: Engineering & Literature in 19th Century Mexico


My research links civilizing discourses in the sciences to those in the humanities during the 35-year dictatorship of Porfirio Díaz, the period of rapid modernization from 1876-1911 known as the Porfiriato. I explore the ideological relationships between the nation-building projects of nationalistic Mexican literature and the infrastructural projects of Mexican engineers, which were especially present as the Mexican state was in its incipient stages of consolidation and both technology and literature were posited as indispensable tools for socially engineering a modern nation. Prior to obtaining the Tinker Grant, I conducted research in the Archive of the City of Mexico related to the topics of infrastructure, city planning and engineering during the Porfirian regime. Though my intention was to continue this archival research in Summer 2021, with the archives closed due to the pandemic, I shifted my focus to creating my own 19th century Mexican archive by acquiring rare sources from used bookstores in Mexico City, with the intention of later digitizing them for broader accesibility.

Alejandra Decker
Publication date: 
December 9, 2021
Publication type: 
Student Research