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Resistance, religion and identity in Ojitlan, Oaxaca, Mexico

Jeffery, Susan Elizabeth (2001) Resistance, religion and identity in Ojitlan, Oaxaca, Mexico. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.



This dissertation analyses resistance to a regional development programme, which centred on the construction of a dam at Cerro de Oro, Ojitlan, Oaxaca, Mexico and the resettlement of the affected Chinantec population into an area of Uxpanapa, Veracruz. The resistance of the people of Ojitlan took various forms over a seven year period (1972-9), including political action, a syncretic millenarian movement, a reassertion of traditional forms of community fiestas and passive resistance to resettlement. Ojitlan has been affected by national economic and political changes since before the Spanish Conquest. Large plantations established in the tropical lowland areas in the 19th century ceded place to small "ejido" communities, set up under land reform in the 1930s. Control of land and the economic relationships of production are seen as factors affecting the patterns of resistance in Ojitlan. The dissertation reviews the anthropological literature on resistance and on ethnicity. The series of forms of resistance studied can be seen as multiple cultural articulations - attempts to "bridge the gap" between the established Ojitec life and the "modern" systems of work and life introduced by the development project of the Papaloapan River Commission. The Ojitec struggle with modernity involved dealing not just with the question of resettlement in the collective ejidos of Uxpanapa, but also with the reforms promoted in the Oaxacan Catholic Church. The traditional ritual of indigenous Catholicism offered a sphere of legitimate agency and autonomy for the Ojitec in the face of new models of agency and power. The dissertation suggests the usefulness of the concept of resistance, tempered with an analysis of accompanying processes of accommodation to change. Evidence from the 1990s indicates that ethnic identity continues to be important in political resistance to the state in Uxpanapa, a sign of the resilience of forms of Ojitec culture.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Date:2001
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:01 Aug 2012 11:33

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