Minerals, Collecting, and Value across the US-Mexico Border

Minerals, Collecting, and Value across the US-Mexico Border

Elizabeth Emma Ferry
Distribution: Global
Publication date: 06/19/2013
Format: Paperback 27 b&w illus.
ISBN: 978-0-253-00936-4
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Elizabeth Emma Ferry traces the movement of minerals as they circulate from Mexican mines to markets, museums, and private collections on both sides of the US-Mexico border. She describes how and why these byproducts of ore mining come to be valued by people in various walks of life as scientific specimens, religious offerings, works of art, and luxury collectibles. The story of mineral exploration and trade defines a variegated transnational space, shedding new light on the complex relationship between these two countries and on the process of making value itself.

Author Bio

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.


“Elizabeth Emma Ferry traces the movement of minerals as they circulate from Mexican mines to markets, museums, and private collections. This story of mineral exploration and trade defines a rich and variegated US-Mexican space and sheds new light on this complex relationship”

“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

“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

“Minerals, Collecting, and Value makes a novel contribution to the anthropology of natural resources by weaving together theories of value and concepts from actor network theory to historicize the formation of U.S.-Mexico as a transnational space.”
 — Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology

“Students with little knowledge of the topic as well as scholars in this area will enjoy this book, part of the 'Tracking Globalization' series. . . . Highly recommended. ”
 — Choice

“Ferry is primarily concerned with three fields in which minerals are valued: ore mining, mineral collecting, and mineralogy. As any respectable ethnographer, she aims to understand the intimate bond between the human and the object (in this case, the mineral) and how meaning is attached to it, value created, and value given or taken away. . . [A] jewel to those interested in ore mining, mineral collecting and mineralogy, or the anthropology of value.May 2015”
 — American Ethnologist

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Table of Contents

Introduction: Making Value and U.S.-Mexican Space
1. Histories, Mineralogies, Economies
2. Shifting Stones: Mineralogy and Mineral Collecting in Mexico and the United States
3. Making Scientific Value
4. Mineral Collections and Their Minerals: Building Up U.S.-Mexican Transnational Spaces
5. Making Places in Space: Miners and Collectors in Guanajuato and Tucson
6. Mineral Marketplaces, Arbitrage, and the Production of Difference
Appendix: Sources and Methods

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