|About the Book|
How do more powerful actors-state institutions, intellectuals, elites, NGOs, etc.-try, in an imperfect and messy way, to mold collective identities? Martinez Novo not only poses this rather interesting problem, but investigates it with an innovativeMoreHow do more powerful actors-state institutions, intellectuals, elites, NGOs, etc.-try, in an imperfect and messy way, to mold collective identities? Martinez Novo not only poses this rather interesting problem, but investigates it with an innovative methodology and supports it with sound scholarship.-Steve Striffler, author of In the Shadows of State and Capital For years, conventional scholarship has argued that minority groups are better served when the majority groups that absorb them are willing to recognize and allow for the preservation of indigenous identities. But is the reinforcement of ethnic identity among migrant groups always a process of self-liberation? In this surprising study, Carmen Martinez Novo draws on her ethnographic research of the Mixtec Indians migration from the southwest of Mexico to Baja California to show that sometimes the push for indigenous labels is more a process of external oppression than it is of minority empowerment. In Baja California, many Mixtec Indians have not made efforts to align themselves as a coherent demographic. Instead, Martinez Novo finds that the push for indigenous identity in this region has come from local government agencies, economic elites, intellectuals, and other external agents. Their concern has not only been over the loss of rich culture. Rather, the pressure to maintain an indigenous identity has stemmed from the desire to secure a reproducible abundance of cheap Indian labor. Meanwhile, many Mixtecs reject their ethnic label precisely because being Indian means being a commercial agriculture low-wage worker or an urban informal street vendor-an identity that interferes with their goals of social mobility and economic integration. Bringing a critical new perspective to the complex intersection among government and scholarly agendas, economic development, global identity politics, and the aspirations of local migrants, this provocative book is essential reading for scholars working in the fields of sociology, anthropology, and ethnic studies. Carmen Martinez Novo is a professor and researcher in the anthropology program at Facultad Latinoamericana de Ciencias Sociales Sede Ecuador in Quito, Ecuador.