Oral Presentation Session
Reviewed by: Society for Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology
Of interest to: Students
Primary Theme: The Political
Secondary Theme: Inclusivity
In light of Mexico’s 2018 Presidential Election and the attention being paid to the major party candidates, this panel places ethnographic focus on the margins of Mexican democracy. In shifting our scholarly lens on the margins, we seek to problematize framings of Mexican democracy that fetishize electoral politics and thus narrow the means by which Mexicans from across the country’s multiple social landscapes engage politically. Alternatively, we call attention to the multiple ways in which people across Mexico’s many margins (geographic, sexual, gender, racial, class etc.) understand themselves and their political futures in relation to practices and ontologies of political citizenship. Here, we invite scholars whose work speaks to the many meaning of marginality; marginality as a relation to power and as a consequence of neoliberal policy, but also marginality as a stance of refusal, and as a fluctuating category of contingency. Such perspectives allow us to draw attention to the spaces of political action, social mobilization, and on-going struggle that parallel national media discourses about Mexico’s open-ended future. By attending to the question of the making and meaning of citizenship at the margins of Mexican society, we raise questions about the nature of democratic subject making in a space of economic and social inequality.
At the same time this panel seeks to critically examine the meaning of Mexican democracy for those at the margins. We call on scholarship inspired by anthropological insights that analyze democracy as a cultural category shaped by social conflict, rather than a discrete set of conditions (competitive elections, due process under the law, access to voting) that remain elusive. Where national and international media attention has focused principally on the campaigns and potential outcomes that might unfold when Mexicans go to the polls, we push these narrative framings to the margins as a means to center the changes already underway, and the social dynamics that are likely to persist after the campaign season is over. As a result, the papers in this panel seek to call attention to the way everyday life reveals the contradictions of Mexican democracy and the means by which people make sense of these tensions through their own political engagement.
It is in this sense that this panel hopes to challenge conventional framings of Mexico’s democratic development (voter participation, erosion of clientelist systems, decline of the PRI etc.), and instead concentrate on the multiple meanings and aspirations that define democracy for those at the margins. Here, we aim not simply to understand the limits of Mexican democracy in light of on-going social violence, growing economic and material inequality, and the recurrent problems of state impunity and corruption, but to also showcase the ways in which the margins inform the trajectory of Mexican democracy in light of these trends. Here we call on scholars who take marginality as a starting place rather than a fixed location, demonstrating ethnographically the nuanced ways in which marginalities and centers overlap alongside, through engagement with, and in opposition to electoral democracy in Mexico.