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Meanings of Waves: Electroencephalography and Society in Mexico City, 1940–1950

  • Nuria Valverde Pérez (a1)

This paper focuses on the uses of electroencephalograms (EEGs) in Mexico during their introductory decade from 1940 to 1950. Following Borck (2006), I argue that EEGs adapted to fit local circumstances and that this adjustment led to the consolidation of different ways of making science and the emergence of new objects of study and social types. I also maintain that the way EEGs were introduced into the institutional networks of Mexico entangled them in discussions about the objective and juridical definitions of social groups, thereby preempting concerns about their technical and epistemic limitations. This ultimately enabled the use of EEGs as normative machines and dispositifs. To this end, the paper follows the arrival of EEGs and the creation of institutional networks then analyzes the extent to which the styles of thinking behind the uses of EEGs and attempts to reify a notion of normal electrical brain behavior—particularly by applying EEGs to a community of Otomí Indians—correlated with the difficulties of defining the socio-anthropological notions that articulated legal and disciplinary projects of the time. Finally, it unveils the shortcomings of alternative attempts to define a brain model and to resist the production of ontological determinations.

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Science in Context
  • ISSN: 0269-8897
  • EISSN: 1474-0664
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