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Title: Transnational migration in Mexican indigenous communities : an analysis of gender and empowerment
Author: Sulem, Evelyn
Awarding Body: University of Warwick
Current Institution: University of Warwick
Date of Award: 2013
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This thesis presents interdisciplinary work on indigenous Mexican migration from a gender perspective. It uses a conceptual framework drawn from Agarwal (1994) and Kabeer (2001) to explore the role of transnational migration in the transformation of gender relations and identities and to enrich our understanding of the link between transnational migration and empowerment. Based on innovative multi-sited ethnographic fieldwork in the Mixtec town of Santiago Cacaloxtepec, the Zapotec town of San Bartolomé Quialana; both located in the state of Oaxaca, Mexico; and the state of California, US; this research presents a high resolution comparative analysis of changing gender relations in the communities of origin and diaspora due to indigenous (mainly) male migration. Migration from both communities is transnational, gendered and undocumented; indigenous men are still seen as the natural subjects of migration, especially when this is international, but nowadays indigenous women are also expected to migrate at least while they are single. Longer-term absence of male inhabitants has been understood as a determining factor which progressively re-constructs gender relations, increases female participation in political life and is a catalyst for women's empowerment. However a close scrutiny of the socio-political context of the communities, the dynamics of migration and a desegregation of female respondents by age/generation allows this research to argue that not all women are sharing equally in the shifts in gender relations. Moreover, while transnational migration is found to be both initiating and contributing to processes of women’s empowerment, its significance is differentiated by the location, age, civil status and migrant experiences of women, and it is not the only factor at work. In the diaspora, changes in gender relations have been observed in favour of women, as they take advantage of new opportunities in employment and education and men are obliged to participate in household work. Important processes of empowerment were detected among male and female migrants who have found opportunities that they could not have obtained in their communities of origin. However, their clandestine status still jeopardizes their transformative achievements. Transnational migration has also served as an opportunity to re-construct and question the forms of femininity and masculinity practised in the communities. Femininity has ceased to be represented only through motherhood and marriage, to give way to more active and transformative expressions. Dominant forms of indigenous masculinities have been based on elderly-wisdom power arrangements; however the trajectory of transnational migration is seeing them give way to a masculinity represented by the younger "brave" and experienced migrant.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: ZEIT-Stiftung Ebelin und Gerd Bucerius ; Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología (Mexico) (CONACYT) ; Department of Sociology, University of Warwick
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform ; JV Colonies and colonization. Emigration and immigration. International migration