New Books Network

Daniel Nemser’s Infrastructures of Race: Concentration and Biopolitics in Colonial Mexico (University of Texas Press, 2017) examines the long history of how Spanish imperial...

Daniel Nemser’s Infrastructures of Race: Concentration and Biopolitics in Colonial Mexico (University of Texas Press, 2017) examines the long history of how Spanish imperial rule depended upon spatial concentration – the gathering of people and things into centralized spaces – to control populations and consolidate power. Through four case studies spanning nearly 300 years of Spanish rule in colonial Mexico, Nemser illustrates how different modes of concentration — centralized towns, disciplinary institutions, segregated neighborhoods, and general collections – reflected the prerogatives and imperatives of domination and expropriation. Compellingly, Infrastructures of Race argues that these spatial infrastructures and strategies were central and instrumental in the creation of racial identities and their inscription upon colonial subjects. Through designed and engineered spaces, racial identities were lived, sensed, and experienced, and as the built environment faded into barely noticeable infrastructure, race as well became naturalized. Infrastructures of Race provides essential historical background for present-day interrogations of how infrastructures – from aged water pipes to search engine algorithms – reinforce persistent racial inequalities. The challenges of de-racializing these often unnoticed foundations require a deep understanding of how race became so imbricated with technological environments. Through Nemser’s case studies, we can better apprehend the hundreds of years of oppression that have been built into our material lives.


Lance C. Thurner recently completed a PhD in History at Rutgers University with a dissertation addressing the production of medical knowledge, political subjectivities, and racial and national identities in eighteenth and nineteenth-century Mexico. He is broadly interested in the methods and politics of applying a global perspective to the history of science and medicine and the role of the humanities in the age of the Anthropocene.