264 pages, 27 b/w illustrations
Elizabeth Emma Ferry traces the movement of minerals as they circulate from Mexican mines to markets, museums, and private collections. She describes how and why these by-products of ore mining come to be valued by people in various walks of life as scientific specimens, religious offerings, and luxury collectibles. The story of mineral exploration and trade defines a rich and variegated US-Mexican space and sheds new light on this complex relationship.
"An exciting new contribution to sociocultural anthropology, one that is strongly ethnographic and richly analyzed [...] Will make a major and important contribution to the literature on how value is created."
– Les W. Field, University of New Mexico
"An outstanding ethnographic account of the extraction and international circulation of mineral specimens that is sure to be of interest to a broad readership."
– Andrew Walsh, University of Western Ontario
"What makes things valuable? In this imaginative study of mineral mining and collecting, Elizabeth Ferry takes us from an incidental economy in central Mexico to the high reaches of scientific and aesthetic collecting in the United States. In the first, minerals are ancillary finds in the search for ores; in the second, minerals are expensive markers of taste and erudition. In the first, a miner brings minerals to his doctor's secretary to "smooth the way," or he places them on an altar to the saints. In the second, a dealer makes his minerals “pristine” by erasing all traces of their procurement and photographing them as if floating on air. Between the two, value is remade in the production and performance of difference. There is something to learn here for all students and scholars of value, commodities, and the traffic across nations."
– Anna Tsing, author of Friction: An Ethnography of Global Connection
Introduction: Making Value in U.S.–Mexican Space
1. Histories, Mineralogies, Economies
2. Shifting Stones: Mineralogy and Mineral Collecting in Mexico and the U.S
3. Making Scientific Value
4. Mineral Collections and their Minerals: Building up US-Mexican Transnational Spaces
5. Making Places in Space: Miners and Collectors in Guanajuato and Tucson
6. Mineral Marketplaces, Arbitrage, and the Production of Difference
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Elizabeth Emma Ferry is Associate Professor of Anthropology at Brandeis University. She is author of Not Ours Alone: Patrimony, Value, and Collectivity in Contemporary Mexico and editor (with Mandana Limbert) of Timely Assets: The Politics of Resources and their Temporalities.