According to Paul Krugman, I must have been a terribly wicked person in my past life. After training as a physicist at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, I did a brief stint in economics at El Colegio de México to then join the Science Studies Unit of the University of Edinburgh, where I completed my PhD in 2010. Throughout this transition from physics to sociology my interests have remained broadly the same: I am interested in understanding the central yet contested role of markets in the constitution of modern societies.
My early work (2000-2005) dealt with an artificial financial market developed by colleagues at the Instituto de Ciencias Nucleares (UNAM), which served as a testing site for a new measure of inefficiency. My more recent work, however, is thoroughly sociological and explores the production of markets at the intersection of culture, organizations, and technology. Combining theoretical insights from economic sociology, anthropology, and science and technology studies, my most recent book Automating Finance: Infrastructures, Engineers, and the Making of Electronic Markets (Cambridge University Press, 2019), examines the moral, political and organizational struggles that underpinned the automation of modern stock exchanges. By connecting the literatures on infrastructures with discussions on kinship, morality, and institutional change, the book explores how automation occurred not as a planned project but as a confluence of multiple, fragmented visions of the world.
I am also working on two additional projects. The first, tentatively titled REF’d! How austerity, markets, and rankings transformed the British social sciences, is a multi-methods study of the effects of the Research Assessment Exercises/Research Excellence Framework on the evolution of British social sciences. By combining large datasets of career trajectories, funding, publications, and other traces of scholarly activity with oral histories of British academics, the study seeks to provide a detailed overview of how ranking and rating systems transform the dynamics of scholarly fields through time.
A longer term project concerns the materialities of political liberalism. Tentatively titled The Architectures of Liberty: Market Gardeners, Intellectuals, and Urban Planners in Enlightenment England, this (book) project traces the history of London’s urban markets in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries as an opportunity to explore connections between the reorganization of cities and elites, the re-embedding of market regulation, and the emergence of liberal political thought. (Think of it as Polanyi meeting the literature on materiality and cultural sociology). Here, my concern is not only with the marketplace as an object of design, aesthetics, everyday practices and calculated construction but also on its role as a generative site of politics.
In addition to these larger projects, I also study art markets, emerging technologies, ‘big data’, and am currently collaborating with Carrie Friese and Nathalie Nuyts of the London School of Economics on the project Care as Science. I am also studying the politics and epistemologies of data science, as part of a small project funded by the Institute for Practical Ethics of UC San Diego.