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Matthew Vitz

Associate Professor

Matthew Vitz received his Ph.D. in Latin American and Caribbean History from New York University in 2010. Before joining UC-San Diego’s History Department, he was a Visiting Assistant Professor at Dartmouth College, a postdoctoral fellow at the Center for U.S.-Mexican Studies at UCSD, and a fellow at the Instituto de Investigaciones Históricas (Institute of Historical Research) at the UNAM in Mexico City. Professor Vitz’s research spans the urban, environmental, and political histories of Mexico. His book, A City on a Lake: Urban Political Ecology and the Growth of Mexico City, was published by Duke University Press in 2018. His most recent article-length publications include works on the history of Mexican beachfront tourism in Journal of Social History (2023), on Mexican imaginaries of the tropics in a global perspective in Historia Ambiental Latinoamericana y Caribeña (2022), and an urban social history of technocracy in Mexico for the edited volume Technocratic Visions: Engineers, Technology and Society in Mexico (Pittsburgh, 2022). He is currently completing a short ebook titled “Globalizing Urban Environmental History” for Cambridge University Press’s Global Urban History Element Series.

Vitz’s current major research project, tentatively titled “Development’s Discontents: Ecology, Participatory Urban Design, and Indigenous Rights in Late Twentieth-Century Mexico,” deals with the crisis of state-led capitalist development in Mexico during the 1970s and 1980s. The guiding research question is: How did a diverse array of Mexican citizens respond to state-led capitalist development (industrialization, rational exploitation of resources, mega-projects, technocratic management, and indigenous assimilation) during its zenith and ultimate collapse between the 1950s and the 1980s? In answering this question, Vitz seeks to re-narrate Mexico’s late twentieth-century cultural and political history conventionally told through the frameworks of neoliberal transitions, emboldened “civil society,” and failed state socialist projects. In the process he aims to center key aspects and actors of the developmentalist crisis that elude much scholarship.

Professor Vitz’s research spans urban and environmental history, with a focus on Mexico and Latin America; energy history; and the politics of development. He is particularly drawn to questions of environmental justice, the way power is anchored in the material environment, urban metabolisms, and the dialectical relationships between cities and their national and transnational hinterlands.

Mexican history

Latin American history

Environmental history

Urban history