Subterranean (In)visibilities: Traces, Underground Water, and Thermal Flows in the El Tatio Geyser Field, Atacama, Chile



This article explores stories of underground water in the “El Tatio” geyser field, focusing on traces from geothermal energy explorations, namely a well. Rather than express a distant past in the landscape, these traces have had an active role in the energy futures of the place. Specifically, in the year 2009, an environmental conflict was produced by geothermal exploration and the explosion of a steam column. In this piece, I want to follow the trajectories of underground water through these infrastructures. Crossing different regimes of (in)visibility, traces have the power to activate diverse trajectories, interrupting and destabilizing geothermal futures.

Author Biography

Martín Fonck, Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society, LMU Munich, Germany

Martín Fonck is currently a doctoral candidate at the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society and the Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology at LMU Munich. His research interests include ethnographic studies about environmental politics with a special focus on the production of evidence, energy infrastructures, and embodied experiences. He has worked in Chile on environmental conservation projects in the Andes’ protected forests from a multispecies approach. Recently, he changed the focus from forest surfaces to subterranean ecologies. Specifically, he is writing his doctoral dissertation based on the ethnographic experience following geological explorations and geothermal energy futures in the Chilean Andes. He has been following rock measurements, field-notes practices, and underground water (in)visibilities, exploring the politics of evidence and knowledge production.