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Title: 'The world created anew' : land, religion and revolution in the Gran Nayar region of Mexico
Author: Morris, Nathaniel
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2015
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The Mexican Revolution - the first of the great revolutions of the twentieth century - is today recognised by scholars as the cumulative result of 'many Revolutions', occurring in multiple locations, for multiple reasons, over a thirty year period from Madero's rebellion against the Díaz dictatorship in 1911, to the consolidation of the Mexican state in the late 1930s. No region remained untouched by the rebellions and reforms that transformed the country over these years: not least 'el Gran Nayar', a 20,000 km2 expanse of mountains and canyons spanning parts of four different states, which constitutes one of Mexico's most ethnically diverse areas, and is home to one of the country's most prominent indigenous groups - the Huichols - along with their Cora, Tepehuano, and Mexicanero Indian neighbours. However, despite a boom in regionally-grounded studies of Mexican history, and the long-standing popularity of the Gran Nayar as a site for anthropological research, my book is the first study of the participation of the Gran Nayar's inhabitants - among the least 'assimilated' indigenous groups in the Americas - in the Mexican Revolution. Over the course of this thesis, I show that the Revolution in the Gran Nayar entailed a violent confrontation between an expansionist state and the region's highly autonomous Indian peasant communities: a clash between practitioners of subsistence agriculture and promoters of capitalist development, rival Indian generations and political factions, and rival visions of the world, of religion, and of daily life. These clashes produced some of the most severe defeats that the Mexican government's state- and nation-building programmes suffered during this period, with sometimes counter-intuitive consequences. Thus members of 'traditionalist' Indian factions, who upheld a resolutely pagan religious tradition and defined themselves in opposition to local mestizos, became an important force within the Catholic-inspired, mestizo-dominated Cristero rebel movements of the 1920s and 30s. Similarly, the Federal educational programmes so often lauded for bringing literacy and 'progress' to rural Mexico, instead precipitated violent opposition in the Gran Nayar, which involved the burning of schools, and even the murder of several teachers. And the radical land reforms of left-leaning President Lázaro Cárdenas (1934-40), which proclaimed the liberation of the Mexican peasantry from social and economic oppression, caused violent territorial conflicts between local communities, some of which continue to define life in the region today.
Supervisor: Knight, Alan Sponsor: Arts and Humanities Research Council
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available