The presence of absence: indigenous migration, a ghost town, and the remaking of gendered communal systems in Oaxaca, Mexico Public Deposited

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  • March 22, 2019
  • Worthen, Holly
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Geography
  • The rise in international labor migration between the sending countries of the Global South and the receiving countries of the Global North has led to the creation of what scholars call transnational lives. In the case of U.S./Mexican migration, it is widely recognized that migrant laborers attempt to maintain personal and communal connections with their friends, family, and social structures back home. This is done through regular communication and travel, the sending of remittances, and the creation of hometown organizations in migrant destinations. However, the rising participation of indigenous people these processes is opening up new avenues for exploring migration as a multi-ethnic process and for assessing the political and economic effects of migration both at home and abroad. In particular, the growing migration of indigenous peoples brings to the forefront the reformulation of indigenous communities via transnational processes. While indigenous communities are not in any way homogenous entities within Mexico, many, especially in the Northern mountains of the state of Oaxaca, are constituted through what scholars refer to as communal systems. These systems, created through historical legacies of colonial and post-colonial struggle, represent important and unique forms of social organization whose practices are often antithetical to liberal capitalism. The absence of migrants from these systems challenges many of their foundations, especially, as this dissertation argues, the way they engage with alternative formulations of value in which life, land, and labor are key elements to be maintained and recreated. In particular, this work focuses on a ghost town an indigenous Zapotec town that has experienced massive population loss due to extensive emigration. It explores how this ghost town has adapted to the challenges of migration and the subsequent new relationship with capitalism that migration brings. In particular, it focuses on the way that the town has reformulated notions of gender, labor, and belonging and the way it has incorporated the presence of absence into its daily structure. This ghost town's struggle to maintain communal life thus demonstrates not only contemporary attempts to formulate transnational connections, but also the continuity of other forms of social organization and value in the world.
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  • Wolford, Wendy
  • Doctor of Philosophy
Graduation year
  • 2012

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