“He also likes pancakes”: Navigating analogue/digital spaces with families searching for disappeared persons in Mexico

Authors: ARELY CRUZ SANTIAGO*, University of Durham
Topics: Latin America, Qualitative Research
Keywords: Mexico, disappearance, citizen-led technologies, participatory
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 9:55 AM / 11:35 AM
Room: Roosevelt 4, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Drug-related violence and organised crime networks in Mexico challenge global north understandings of security and policing. Selective rule of law, corruption and what feminist scholars have identified as “epistemological ignorances” undermine trust in the state’s capacity to conduct criminal investigations. Since 2006 more than 35,000 cases of disappearance have been registered and 160,000 persons killed during the so called ‘War on Drugs’ (Wright 2016; Lorde 2007; Scott 1999; Tuana 2006). In order to fight the Mexican state dereliction of duty, grass-root practices of forensic enquiry and data collection have been developed. Families are creating lists, collecting maps, photos, using GPS and producing criminal network analysis in order to locate and identify their disappeared family members. As Co-Investigator of the ESRC project ‘Citizen-led Forensics’ in 2014-2015, we co-designed and developed two citizen-led forensic datasets: a DNA database with samples from family members of those who have disappeared and a National Registry of Disappeared Persons. This paper explores the challenges and transformations that these datasets encountered while grappling with the complexities of analogue data and the significance and implications of digital technologies in the everyday lives of families who are searching for disappeared persons in Mexico.

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