Conflicting paths to wellbeing: Raramuri and Mestizo inter-ethnic relations in Northern Mexico

Loera Gonzalez, Juan Jaime (2013) Conflicting paths to wellbeing: Raramuri and Mestizo inter-ethnic relations in Northern Mexico. Doctoral thesis (PhD), University of Sussex.

PDF - Published Version
Download (3MB) | Preview


Indigenous people in Mexico have historically been subjected to subordinate positions in relation to dominant non-indigenous groups. Indigenous people continue to face political exclusion, social discrimination and economic disadvantages compared to the non-indigenous population. Most studies use a universalising approach to conceptualise wellbeing in order to account for these differences among groups, neglecting to consider local indigenous understandings of wellbeing, and how such understandings may be obscured by inter-ethnic power relations at the local level. This research contributes to the larger debate of how asymmetries among social groups are formed, how they are contested through the articulation of discourses, and the implications of mobilising discourses as a political tool at the local level.

The dissertation focuses on the case of the Raramuri indigenous people of Northern Mexico, and uses detailed ethnographic evidence to explore how discourses of wellbeing are constructed by the Raramuri people in their daily interactions with the non-indigenous population and how power asymmetries between these groups form and persist. It does so by pursuing three main objectives. The first is to document local understandings of wellbeing which emerge for the Raramuri people in contexts of ethno-political oppression. The second is to uncover underlying power relations that hinder wellbeing and reproduce ethnically differentiated vulnerabilities. Examples of this are land conflicts and institutional arrangements behind land management schemes. The third objective is to analyse resulting mechanisms of resistance employed by the Raramuri indigenous people in order to seek control of practices and customs that promotes ethnic distinction. These three pillars provide a novel framework to explore the formation and perpetuation of asymmetrical social, economic and political relations at the local level.

The study finds that the Raramuri people, like other minority groups living in the margins of nation states and global markets, are constrained to act strategically to face political, economic and social exclusion, while at the same time, taking the opportunity of this position to articulate culturally embedded discourses and mechanisms to reinforce their identity and self-definition. It is in the marginal context that the Raramuri discourse of living well develops and makes sense; fluctuating between the tension of having the right to live differently and the need to be part of the larger society. As a result, this discourse, by stressing ethnic membership and differentiation from other groups, appeals to culturally deep-seated homogenising and idealised elements of ethnicity. Consequently, Raramuri people articulate a recurrent strategy of resistance that allows them to consolidate their cultural identity and the internal cohesion of the group. However, this strategy limits political influence and their capacity to challenge the asymmetric power relations they face from dominant, non-indigenous spheres.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Schools and Departments: Institute of Development Studies
Subjects: F History United States, Canada, Latin America > F1201 Latin America (General) > F1203.49 Mexico
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GN Anthropology > GN301 Ethnology. Social and cultural anthropology > GN537 Ethnic groups and races
Depositing User: Library Cataloguing
Date Deposited: 20 Jun 2013 08:47
Last Modified: 10 Sep 2015 14:54

View download statistics for this item

📧 Request an update