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Title: Contemporary politics in rural Chiapas: an ethnographic approach to power
Author: Escalona Victoria, Jose Luis
Awarding Body: University of Manchester
Current Institution: University of Manchester
Date of Award: 2003
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The present work examines local receptions of wider political changes in contemporary rural Chiapas, Mexico. The southeastern-most area of Chiapas experienced radical social transformations in the last century. The long-established finca regime -a particular form of seigniorial organization based on large states and a serf debt work regime - was displaced by the formation of peasant settlements under the post-revolutionary land-tenure regime called ejido. In the second part of the twentieth century, the peasant population increased in numbers and occupied new areas for milpa cultivation, cattle-rising, and coffee production. At the same time, many religious and political institutions influenced local life and produced a new population who became involved in professional training and seasonal work, as well as members of peasant and teacher unions, Catholic and non-Catholic churches, and institutional or insurgent organizations, such as the Zapatista guerrilla. I conducted my fieldwork in a Maya Tojolabal rural settlement, located in this area, which experienced processes of social differentiation and political fragmentation. I analyzed the local interpretations related to the people's participation in modern politics, which are strongly influenced by local understandings of power, and people's strategies of livelihood, rather than the logics of wider ideological and political confrontations. Local interpretations of politics led to pre-established languages of power that entailed social categories of gender, kinship, age, and force, as well as particular understandings of personhood and sociality. I analyzed how these elements influence people's historical memories, their militancy in unions, political parties, and insurgent mobilizations, and their participation in land occupations, mobilizations against authorities, and electoral processes. Finally, I show how an ethnographic approach to power represents an opportunity to question political arguments as constructs steaming from symbolic work, by means of focusing on contradictory power relations and their dynamics. This kind of critique can make a relevant contribution to the construction of a language for enlightening and facing the ways in which power actually works.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available