Rhizomes and other uncountables: The malaise of enumeration in Mexico’s Colorado River Delta

by Shaylih Muehlmann

Read Article

By Shaylih Muehlmann In this article, I analyze the “countdown,” a popular rhetorical trope of contemporary discourses of environmental and cultural crisis. Drawing on fieldwork in a Cucapá village in the Colorado River Delta of northern Mexico, I show how, through the counting of people, birds, fish, water quantities, and language speakers, the habitat, culture, and language of the delta's indigenous residents have consistently been represented by NGO workers, scientists, and state officials as “endangered.” In taking on the form of a “countdown,” this numerical tracking has ideological effects distinct from other kinds of enumerative practices, leading some Cucapá people to express frustration with it. I analyze how certain domains of experience, such as language, people, and water, are locally identified as being uncountable, and I use Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari's concept of the “rhizome” to illustrate how particular domains of experience become enumerable or resist enumeration in the first place. See: onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1548-1425.2012.01368.x/abstract