Katheryn Detwiler

IMG - Katheryn Detwiler

Curriculum vitae (PDF)

Dissertation Abstract
The Atacama Desert in northern Chile, one of the most arid and sparsely inhabited environments on the planet, has long been produced as a resource for science and the world economy while it has been commonly imagined as a remote wasteland, an isolated “counter-environment to globalization.” Today the desert hosts nearly 2/3 of the world’s infrastructure for astronomical observation and the Chilean sky is considered one of Chile’s most valuable natural resources. The observatories that populate the Atacama collect light waves from the Chilean sky and transform these analog signals into massive quantities of digital data. These data circulate to far-flung data centers, valuable not only for what astronomical content they might generate but also as data, as Big Data, a proving ground for new algorithms and analytical techniques. This research explores the Chilean sky as contingent, entwined with the historical production of the Atacama as both desolate and rich, and actively shaped by the regulation of desert lands and concrete infrastructures. It asks how the sky is produced as a field of translatable information that observatories collect in the form of ancient light. It details the arrangements of people and things that are set in motion by these ephemeral light waves and explores how the data derived from them, while highly mobile and tremendously abstract, are socially and materially situated.

Katie Detwiler is a doctoral student in cultural anthropology at The New School for Social Research in New York, NY. She received her B.A. from Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon and a Masters in cultural anthropology from The New School. She is the manager of The Book and Journal Project of the international NGO The Network of East-West Women, headquartered in Gdansk, Poland, which supports feminist organizing and scholarship in East and Central Europe. Her interests center around processes of material transformation, non-human scales, scientific and geographic traditions in Latin America, the Atacama Desert, and the Age of Big Data.
She is interested in collaborative work that moves through and beyond academia, and worked as a researcher/contributor to artist and geographer Trevor Paglen's outer-space bound photo archive, The Last Pictures (2012). She is the producer and co-director of the forthcoming film installation, "Desert Science," which explores the painstaking construction of the largest radio astronomical observatory on the planet, The Atacama Large Millimeter/Submillimeter Array, and is in the pre-production phase of a second film project, "Lab Gothic," which explores the interface of massive data, large object 3D printing and paleontology.

Honors and Awards
Fall, 2012. Teaching Fellow, The New School, New York, NY

Summer 2012. Dick and Sally Roberts Coyote Foundation Grant for research and documentary film production.

Summer 2012. New School for Social Research Summer Fieldwork Grant.

Summer 2011. Janey Program for Latin American Studies Fellow.

Dean’s Fellowship for Doctoral Study, The New School for Social Research

Courses Taught
Fall, 2012. Anthropology of Everyday Life: Familiar and Strange. Eugene Lang College, The New School

Conference Presentations
November 16, 2012. “Science Fell in Love with the Chilean Sky: A Geography of Astronomy,” presented to the Janey Program in Latin American Studies lecture series, The New School for Social Research, New York

May 8, 2010. “Political Reorganizing,” at “Encuentro: School of Echoes: The Ultra-Red Collective”, Vera List Center for Art and Politics, The New School, New York,.

April 10, 2010. Co-organizer and moderator, “Committing Anthropology,” The New School for Social Research, New York

March 26th, 2010. “Taking the Pulse of Gender Studies at The New School,” with Chelsea Estep-Armstrong at “No Longer in Exile: The Legacy and Future of Gender Studies at the New School,” The New School for Social Research, New York.; cited in Susan Faludi, "American Electra," Harper's (October, 2010)

Selected Publications
“Belonging” and “The Hamburg Hydra” in Trevor Paglen's The Last Pictures, (Berkeley: University of California Press and Creative Time Books, 2012)

Contact Information
Department of Anthropology
6 E 16th , Street, 9th floor
New York, NY 10009

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