Getting a feel for infrastructure: Embodied calculation and the sensorial management of water in Mexico City

Research output: Contribution to specialist publicationArticle


This essay argues that senses are developed relationally with infrastructures through various forms of embodied calculation, and that these skills are necessary for the performance of infrastructural labour and the maintenance of infrastructural form and flow. I demonstrate this claim by showing how workers at SACMEX – the Mexico City water utility – operate hydraulic systems and infrastructures through embodied calculations that engage simultaneously with situated forms of hearing, feeling, and smelling. Relying on fieldwork observations and my own experience in performing infrastructural work, I show how these embodied calculations require that workers learn how to sense infrastructural forms and flows through collective, iterative, and adaptive practices and processes. This suggests that the senses are not only necessary for infrastructural work, form, and flow, but that these practices and relations shape the senses, understood not only as perception but also as technique.
Original languageEnglish
Specialist publicationRoadsides
Publication statusAcceptance date - 23 Aug 2021


  • Embodied calculation
  • Infrastructure
  • Labour
  • Sensing
  • Water (Q250)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences(all)

Cite this