Skip to main content

The Practice of Autonomy in the Age of Neoliberalism: Strategies from Indigenous Women's Organising in Mexico


Bridging the ways in which scholars have looked at the co-option of both gender and cultural rights through neoliberal governance in Latin America, this article will examine how gender has been utilised by the state as a discourse of governmentality in order to regulate indigenous subjects. Moreover, the article will explore how indigenous women activists in Mexico are creating a practice of autonomy as a vital strategy to move beyond rights discourse and challenge the ways in which neoliberal states have selectively co-opted social movement demands. Through their grassroots forms of consultation, indigenous women activists shift the concept of autonomy as a right granted by the state to a practice of decolonisation that is part of everyday life and community sociality.

Vinculando las formas en que los académicos han visto la cooptación de género y los derechos culturales a través de la gobernanza neoliberal en Latinoamérica, examino cómo el género ha sido utilizado por el Estado como un discurso de gubernamentalidad para regular a los sujetos indígenas. Además, exploro cómo las mujeres indígenas activistas en México están creando una práctica de autonomía como una estrategia vital para ir más allá del discurso de derechos y desafiar las formas en las que los estados neoliberales han cooptado selectivamente las demandas de los movimientos sociales. A través de sus formas de consulta de base, las activistas indígenas trasladan el concepto de autonomía como un derecho garantizado por el Estado hacia una práctica de descolonización que forma parte de la vida cotidiana y de la sociabilidad comunal.

Interligando as maneiras de estudiosos analisarem a cooptação de direitos culturais e de gênero na América Latina pela governança neoliberal, examino como o gênero tem sido utilizado pelo estado como discurso de governabilidade para regulamentar assuntos indígenas. Também exploro como mulheres indígenas ativistas no México vêm criando uma prática de autonomia como estratégia vital para irem além do discurso sobre direitos e desafiarem as maneiras pelas quais os estados neoliberais seletivamente cooptaram as exigências de movimentos sociais. Através de suas consultas de base (grassroots), mulheres indígenas ativistas deslocam o conceito de autonomia como direito atribuído pelo estado à pratica de descolonização que integra a vida diária e da sociabilidade da comunidade.

Hide All

1 Brysk, Alison, ‘Introduction: Transnational Threats and Opportunities’, in Brysk, (ed.), Globalization and Human Rights (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2002), pp. 118.

2 Schild, Verónica, ‘New Subjects of Rights? Gendered Citizenship and the Contradictory Legacies of Social Movements in Latin America’, Organization: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Organization, Theory and Society, 4: 4 (1997), pp. 604–19; Hale, Charles R., ‘Does Multiculturalism Menace? Governance, Cultural Rights and the Politics of Identity in Guatemala’, Journal of Latin American Studies, 34 (2002), pp. 485524.

3 Hale, Charles R., ‘Neoliberal Multiculturalism: The Remaking of Cultural Rights and Racial Dominance in Central America’, PoLAR: Political and Legal Anthropology Review, 28: 1 (2005), pp. 1028. This key challenge of Latin American social movements has been explored by feminist scholar Sonia Alvarez, who theorises the selective co-option of women's rights discourse and the emergence of two distinct logics of organising that have emerged in the context of neoliberal governance, increased NGO-isation and the transnationalisation of social movements. See Alvarez, Sonia E., ‘Translating the Global: Effects of Transnational Organizing on Local Feminist Discourses and Practices in Latin America’, Meridians: Feminism, Race, Transnationalism, 1: 1 (2000), pp. 2967.

4 Schild, Verónica, ‘“Gender Equity” without Social Justice: Women's Rights in the Neoliberal Age’, NACLA Report on the Americas, 34 (July/August 2000), p. 25.

5 Hale, ‘Neoliberal Multiculturalism’.

6 Evelina Dagnino, ‘Citizenship and the Social in Contemporary Brail’, paper presented at the Claiming Citizenship in the Americas series organised by the Canada Research Chair in Citizenship and Governance, University of Montreal, 4–5 Nov. 2005. The ‘right to have rights’ was invoked in 1994 both by Dagnino in ‘Os movimentos sociais e a emergência de uma nova noção de cidadania’, in Dagnino (ed.), Os anos 90: política e sociedade no Brasil (São Paulo: Brasiliense, 1994), and by the Zapatistas. See, for example, Harvey, Neil, The Chiapas Rebellion: The Struggle for Land and Democracy (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1998). For an earlier formulation of the right to have rights, see Arendt, Hannah, ‘The Perplexities of the Rights of Man’, in Baehr, Peter (ed.), The Portable Hannah Arendt (New York: Viking, 2000), pp. 3145, which was originally a chapter in her book The Origins of Totalitarianism (New York: Harcourt, 1973).

7 For an important analysis on the NGO-isation of Latin America, see Alvarez, Sonia E., ‘Latin American Feminisms “Go Global”: Trends of the 1990s and Challenges for the New Millennium’, in Alvarez, Sonia E., Dagnino, Evelina and Escobar, Arturo (eds.), Cultures of Politics/Politics of Cultures: Revisioning Latin American Social Movements (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1997), pp. 293324; and for an early critique of the increased role of NGOs, see Silliman, Jael, ‘Expanding Civil Society, Shrinking Political Spaces: The Case of Women's Non-Governmental Organizations’, in Silliman, Jael and King, Ynestra (eds.), Dangerous Intersections: Feminist Perspectives on Population, Environment, and Development (Boston, MA: South End Press, 1999), pp. 133–62. There is a wide range of views on the negative role of NGOs; see, for example, Petras, James, ‘Imperialism and NGOs in Latin America – Non-Governmental Organizations’, Monthly Review, 7 (December 1997), pp. 1028.

8 Alvarez, Dagnino and Escobar (eds.), Cultures of Politics/Politics of Cultures. My social movement ethnography explores how these ideas and discourses of autonomy are being created and practised within a national organisation, and while I highlight the way in which these developments transform daily life, there is work that focuses solely on the local impact of such participation. See, for example, chapters by Stephen, , Speed, , Forbis, and Zylberberg, in Shannon Speed, Castillo, Rosalva Aída Hernández and Stephen, Lynn M. (eds.), Dissident Women: Gender and Cultural Politics in Chiapas (Austin, TX: University of Texas, 2006); and Castillo, Rosalva Aída Hernández (ed.), Etnografías e historias de resistencia: mujeres indígenas, procesos organizativos, y nuevas identidades políticas (Mexico: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Programa Universitario de Estudios de Género, 2008).

9 Archival research, ethnographic fieldwork and oral histories with over a dozen women in the leadership of the indigenous women's movement in Mexico were conducted between 1998 and 2005 for this essay. To understand the long-term impact of their initial and continued social movement participation on the lives and communities of key members, I draw upon follow-up interviews that I conducted with several leaders between 2009 and 2012. In addition, I have been attending local, national, regional, continental and international forums organised by the CONAMI and its members since 1998.

10 This network includes indigenous women activists who participate in mixed gender indigenous and peasant organisations such as 500 Years of Indigenous Resistance in Guerrero, the Unión de Comunidades Indígenas de la Zona Norte del Istmo (Union of Indigenous Communities of the Northern Zone of the Isthmus, UCIZONI) and Servicios del Pueblo Mixe (Services of the Mixe People, SER), both from Oaxaca, indigenous rights organisations in Jalisco and Veracruz and weavers’ collectives in Chiapas. In addition, a growing number of activists come from local indigenous women's organisations such as Erandi (Dawn, a P'urhépecha women's group in Michoacán), Casa de Mujer Indígena (Indigenous Women's House, CAMI) in Cuetzalan, Puebla, and the growing number of state-wide indigenous women's organisations in Oaxaca and Guerrero. As a political formation, members of the CONAMI have participated in both the women's commissions of the Congreso Nacional Indígena (National Indigenous Congress, CNI) and the Asamblea Nacional Indígena Plural por la Autonomía (National Plural Indigenous Assembly for Autonomy, ANIPA), as well as in leadership positions of ANIPA.

11 This impacted some 61 per cent of the land within indigenous communities, according to Procuraduría Agraria (Agrarian Ombudsman), ‘Propiedad de la tierra y población indígena’, Estudios Agrarios, 14 (Jan.–April 2000), pp. 123–47, cited in Luis Navarro, Hernández and Carlsen, Laura, ‘Indigenous Rights: The Battle for Constitutional Reform in Mexico’, in Middlebrook, Kevin J. (ed.), Dilemmas of Political Change in Mexico (London: Institute of Latin American Studies, and San Diego: Centre for US–Mexican Studies, University of California, San Diego, 2003), pp. 440–65.

12 Hindley, Jane, ‘Towards a Pluricultural Nation: The Limits of Indigenismo and Article 4’, in Aitken, Rob, Craske, Nikki, Jones, Gareth A. and Stansfield, David E. (eds.), Dismantling the Mexican State? (London: Macmillan, and New York: St. Martin's Press, 1996) pp. 225–43.

13 Harvey, The Chiapas Rebellion, pp. 201–2.

14 Speed, Shannon, ‘Rights at the Intersection: Gender and Ethnicity in Neoliberal Mexico’, in Speed, HernándezCastillo and Stephen (eds.), Dissident Women, pp. 203–21; see also Speed, Shannon and Sierra, María Teresa, ‘Critical Perspectives on Human Rights and Multiculturalism in Neoliberal Latin America’, PoLAR, 28: 1 (2005), pp. 19.

15 Schild, ‘“Gender Equity” without Social Justice’, pp. 25–8.

16 IUP Cultural Studies Working Group, ‘The Concept of Cultural Citizenship’, Working Paper no. 1 (Los Angeles, CA: UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center, 1987); Rosaldo, Renato, ‘Cultural Citizenship in San Jose, California’, PoLAR, 17 (1994), pp. 5763; Flores, William V. and Benmayor, Rina (eds.), Latino Cultural Citizenship: Claiming Identity, Space and Rights (Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 1997).

17 Ong sees citizenship as ‘a cultural process of “subject-ification,” in the Foucaldian sense of self-making and being-made by power relations that produce consent through schemes of surveillance, discipline, control, and administration’: see Ong, Aihwa, ‘Cultural Citizenship as Subject-Making: Immigrants Negotiate Racial and Cultural Boundaries in the United States’, Current Anthropology, 37: 5 (1996), p. 737.

18 It's worth noting that campesino identity, as a form of class-based popular politics, was favoured over supposedly local identities that were often indigenous in nature through the emergent paradigm of land reform in the post-revolutionary state. See Boyer, Christopher, ‘Naranja Revisited: Agrarian Caciques and the Making of Campesino Identity in Postrevolutionary Michoacán’, in Knight, Alan and Pansters, W. G. (eds.), Caciquismo in Twentieth-Century Mexico (London: Institute for the Study of the Americas, 2005), pp. 7193. Elsewhere I have argued that the rise of indigenous identity also coincided with the fatigue of a crumbling corporatist regime in which identities such as ‘popular’, ‘peasant’ and ‘worker’ had become meaningless as modes of organising given complete co-option through state clientilism. See Blackwell, Maylei, ‘(Re)Ordenando el discurso de la nación: el Movimiento de Mujeres Indígenas en México y la práctica de la autonomía’, in Chong, Natividad Gutiérrez (ed.), Mujeres y nacionalismo: de la independencia a la nación del nuevo milenio (Mexico City: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, 2004), pp. 193234.

19 Jung, Courtney, ‘The Politics of Indigenous Identity: Neoliberalism, Cultural Rights and the Mexican Zapatistas’, Social Research, 70 (Summer 2003), p. 4.

20 Ong, ‘Cultural Citizenship as Subject-Making’, p. 738.

21 Postero, Nancy Grey, Now We Are Citizens: Indigenous Politics in Post-multicultural Bolivia (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2007).

22 Blackwell, ‘(Re)Ordeanando el discurso de la nación’.

23 See ibid.; and Forbis, Melissa M., ‘Hacía la Autonomía: Zapatista Women Developing a New World’, in Eber, Christine and Kovic, Christine (eds.), Women of Chiapas: Making History in Times of Struggle and Hope (New York: Routledge, 2003), pp. 231–52.

24 Foucault, Michel, ‘Governmentality’, and Colin Gordon, ‘Government Rationality: An Introduction’, in Burchell, Graham, Gordon, Colin and Miller, Peter (eds.), The Foucault Effect: Studies in Governmentality (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1991), pp. 87104 and 152; Barry, Andrew, Osborne, Thomas and Rose, Nikolas (eds.), Foucault and Political Reason: Liberalism, Neoliberalism, and Rationalities of Government (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1996). See also Inda, Jonathan Xavier, Targeting Immigrants: Government, Technology, and Ethics (Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing, 2006); and Ong, Aiwa, Neoliberalism as Exception: Mutations in Citizenship and Sovereignty (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2006).

25 Lemke argues that this is a technique of power which harmonises collective and individual bodies, corporations, states and universities in order to be ‘lean’, ‘flexible’ and ‘autonomous’ as well as an ‘integral link between micro- and macro-political levels of analysis (e.g. globalization or competition for “attractive” sites for companies and personal imperatives as regards beauty or a regimented diet)’: see Lemke, Thomas, ‘“The Birth of Bio-Politics”: Michel Foucault's Lecture at the Collège de France on Neo-Liberal Governmentality’, Economy and Society, 30 (May 2001), p. 203. Critically, what he does not mention is how these processes are gendered and how they are seen in recruitment of transnational capital to maquiladoras as well as to the forms of beauty pageants and gendered surveillance and regulation that are widespread in such industries.

26 Hale, ‘Does Multiculturalism Menace?’, pp. 490–1.

27 Sierra, María Teresa, ‘Derechos humanos, género y etnicidad: reclamos legales y retos antropológicos’, in Hernández, R. Aída, Paz, Sarela and Sierra, María Teresa (eds.), El estado y los indígenas en los tiempos del PAN (Mexico City: CIESAS and Miguel Angel Porrúa, 2004).

28 Schild, ‘New Subjects of Rights?’, p. 606. For feminist engagements with notions of gender, biopower and neoliberal governmentality in Mexico, see Hennessy, Rosemary, ‘Gender Adjustments in Forgotten Places: The North-South Encuentros in Mexico’, Work and Days, 57/58 (2011), pp. 181201.

29 For other essays that analyse Comandanta Esther's speech, see Hernández Castillo, Rosalva Aída, ‘Indigenous Law and Identity Politics in Mexico: Indigenous Men's and Women's Struggles for a Multicultural Nation’, PoLAR, 24 (2005), pp. 90109, which includes an important summary of the critiques of indigenous law or usos y costumbres; and Marcos, Sylvia, ‘The Borders Within: The Indigenous Women's Movement and Feminism in Mexico’, in Waller, Marguerite and Marcos, Sylvia (eds.), Dialogue and Difference: Feminisms Challenge Globalization (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005).

30 Central message of the EZLN, delivered by Comandanta Esther at the Legislative Palace of San Lázaro, Mexico City, 28 March 2001. Published in La Jornada Perfil, 19 March 2001, pp. 2–4.

31 Hindley, ‘Towards a Pluricultural Nation’, p. 236.

32 Speech published in La Jornada Perfil, 29 March 2001.

34 ‘Situation, Rights and Culture of Indigenous Women’ was one of the working sessions of the San Andrés Accords, and although government negotiators did not accept many of the women's demands, one of the key outcomes was that women mobilised around a process that gendered the indigenous movement's call for autonomy to include indigenous women's bodily, political and cultural autonomy. The EZLN itself recognised the triple oppression of indigenous women and felt that the San Andrés Accords fell short in protecting indigenous women's rights.

35 Unless otherwise noted, all translations are by the author.

36 Mani, Lata, Contentious Traditions: The Debate on Sati in Colonial India (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1998), p. 2. For debates about indigenous law and human rights, see Pitarch, Pedro, Speed, Shannon and Solano, Xochitl Leyva (eds.), Human Rights in the Maya Region: Global Politics, Cultural Contentions, and Moral Engagements (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2008).

37 For further discussion of these early workshops in Chiapas see Palomo, Nellys, Castro, Yolanda and Orci, Cristina, ‘Mujeres indígenas de Chiapas: nuestros derechos, costumbres y tradiciones’, as well as many of the essays and documents in Nellys, Palomo and Sara, Lovera (eds.), Las Alzadas (2nd edition, Mexico City: CIMAC and Convergencia Socialista, 1999), pp. 6581; and Castillo, Rosalva Aída Hernández, ‘Between Hope and Adversity: The Struggle of Organized Women in Chiapas since the Zapatista Rebellion’, Journal of Latin American Anthropology, 3: 1 (1997), pp. 102–20. For the development of these community-based local workshops into a national indigenous women's movement, see Blackwell, Maylei, ‘Weaving in the Spaces: Indigenous Women's Organizing and the Politics of Scale in Mexico’, in Speed, Hernández, Castillo and Stephen (eds.), Dissident Women, pp. 115–56.

38 Blackwell, Maylei, ‘Zones of Autonomy: Gendered Cultural Citizenship and Indigenous Women's Organizing in Mexico’, in Caldwell, Kia Lilly, Coll, Kathleen, Fisher, Tracy, Ramírez, Renya K. and Siu, Lok (eds.), Gendered Citizenships: Transnational Perspectives on Knowledge Production, Political Activism, and Culture (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009), pp. 3954.

39 For a history of the way in which autonomy developed as a shared framework of meaning, see Carlsen, Laura, ‘Autonomía indígena y usos y costumbres: la innovación de la tradición’, Chiapas, 7 (1999), pp. 4570; and Stephen, Lynn M., ‘Indigenous Autonomy in Mexico’, in Dean, Bartholomew and Levi, Jerome (eds.), At the Risk of Being Heard: Identity, Indigenous Rights, and Post-Colonial States (Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 2003), pp. 191216.

40 Forbis, ‘Hacía la Autonomía’.

41 Hernández Navarro and Carlsen, ‘Indigenous Rights’, p. 457; for more about the San Andrés Accords, see Navarro, Luis Hernández and Herrera, Ramón Vera (eds.), Acuerdos de San Andrés (Mexico City: Ediciones Era, 1998). While many indigenous communities in Chiapas (see Speed, ‘Rights at the Intersection’), Oaxaca, Guerrero and Michoacán have declared themselves autonomous, many other communities who are not specifically indigenous have also adopted the Zapatista philosophy of autonomy to protest the lack of social services under neoliberalism. See, for example, Michelle Tellez, ‘Globalizing Resistance: Maclovio Rojas, a Mexican Community en lucha’, unpubl. PhD diss., Claremont Graduate University, 2005.

42 See Rojas, Rosa (ed.), Chiapas, y las mujeres qué? (Mexico: Centro de Investigación y Capacitación de la Mujer, 1994); and Chiapas, y las mujeres qué?, vol. 2 (Mexico: Ediciones del Taller Editorial La Correa Feminista, 1995); and Rovira, Guiomar, Mujeres de Maíz: la voz de las indígenas de Chiapas y la rebelión Zapatista (Barcelona: VIRUS Editorial, 1996). See also Castillo, Rosalva Aída Hernández (ed.), La otra palabra: mujeres y violencia en Chiapas antes y después de Acteal (Mexico: CIESAS, Groupo de Mujeres de San Cristóbal, Centro de Investigación y Acción para la Mujer, 1998); and her many critical essays including ‘Entre el etnocentrismo feminista y el esencialismo étnico: las mujeres indígenas y sus demandas de género’, Debate Feminista, 12 (2001), pp. 206–30. See also Stephen, Lynn M., ‘Género y democracia: lecciones de Chiapas’, in Tarrés, María Luisa (ed.), Género y cultura en América Latina: cultura y participación política, vol. 1 (Mexico City: El Colegio de México, 1998), pp. 311–34; and ¡Zapata Lives! Histories and Cultural Politics in Southern Mexico (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2002); Millán, Márgara, ‘Mujeres indígenas y zapatismo: nuevos horizontes de visibilidad’, in Palomo, Castro, and Orci, (eds.), Las Alzadas, pp. 92109; Kampwirth, Karen, Women and Guerrilla Movements: Nicaragua, El Salvador, Chiapas, Cuba (University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2002); Eber and Kovic (eds.), Women of Chiapas; Speed, Shannon, Rights in Rebellion: Indigenous Struggle and Human Rights in Chiapas (Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press, 2008); and ‘Lucha por la tierra, globalización e identidad: la etnohistoria y ethnopresente de Nicolás Ruiz’, in Maya Lorena Pérez (ed.), Tejiendo historias: tierra, género, y poder en Chiapas (Mexico City: Instituto Nacional de Antropología y Historia, 2004), pp. 91–118; and Speed, Hernández Castillo and Stephen (eds.), Dissident Women.

43 For a history of these developments, see ‘Women's Rights in Our Traditions and Customs’ (trans. María Vinós), in Speed, Hernández Castillo and Stephen, Dissident Women; Margarita Gutiérrez and Nellys Palomo, ‘Autonomía con mirada de mujer’, in Aracely Burguete Cal y Mayor (ed.), México: experiencias de autonomía indígena (Copenhagen: Grupo Internacional de Trabajo Sobre Asuntos Indígenas, 1999), pp. 54–86; Blackwell, ‘(Re)Ordenando el discurso de la nación’; and Hernández, Etnografías e historias de resistencia.

44 Blackwell, ‘Weaving in the Spaces’.

45 While outside the scope of this paper, this posture challenges the historical development of feminist autonomy in the region. With roots firmly in the Left, Latin American feminism developed the notion of feminist autonomy vis-à-vis political parties and revolutionary movements. With the rise of the neoliberal model, and most notably during the Beijing process, this concept transformed and came to embody a critique made by autonomous feminists (autónomas) against the increased institutionalisation of feminists (so-called institucionalizadas) due to their relationship to states, NGOs and funders. Nellys Palomo, a long-time socialist feminist activist and adviser to several indigenous women's organisations, has said that from her point of view the indigenous women's movement has succeeded where other feminists failed in integrating social change at the grassroots level by involving rather than excluding men. Nellys Palomo, director of K'inal Antzetik of Mexico City, Mexico City, 4 March 1999. For an overview of the debate on feminist autonomy, see Alvarez, ‘Latin American Feminisms “Go Global”’.

46 Interview with María de Jesús Patricio, member of the CONAMI and the women's commission of the CNI, Chilpancingo, Guerrero, 1 April 2000.

48 Interview with Sofía Robles, Oaxaca City, Oaxaca, 16 Oct. 2011.

49 For an extended analysis of this phenomena, see Rubin, Jeffrey W., Decentering the Regime: Ethnicity, Radicalism, and Democracy in Juchitán, México (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1997).

50 Blackwell, ‘Zones of Autonomy’.

51 For a discussion of this relationship across Latin America, see Sieder, Rachel and Sierra, María Teresa, ‘Indigenous Women's Access to Justice in Latin America’, Zeitschrift für Menschenrechte, 2 (2011), pp. 3651.

52 Schild, ‘“Gender Equity” without Social Justice’, p. 26.

53 For a history of the Encuentros and questions of diversity, see Alvarez, Sonia E. et al. , ‘Encountering Latin American and Caribbean Feminisms’, Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, 28: 2 (2002), pp. 537–80, a piece that was used by organisers of the 10th Encuentro to think through questions of difference. The theme of the 10th Encuentro engaged questions of feminism and democracy. One central way of dealing with axes of difference was the Diálogos Complejos, which included topics such as ‘Feminism and Strategies to Confront Racism in a Democratic Latin America’, ‘Feminism against Ethnocentrism for Latin American Democracy’, ‘Feminism, Youth and Power: Alternatives to Commercialization and Marginalization in Search of Democratic Perspectives’, and ‘Feminism and Lesbianism – Sexualities and Democracy’.

54 For discussion of human rights as information politics, see Keck, Margaret E. and Sikkink, Kathryn, Activists Beyond Borders: Advocacy Networks in International Politics (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1998).

55 The culture of poverty was originally used by Oscar Lewis in Five Families: Mexican Case Studies in the Culture of Poverty (New York: New American Library, 1959) and later taken up in the Moynihan Report in the US to explain how African Americans suffer because of their ‘culture’.

56 For an important argument documenting this tension in Mexico, see Deere, Carman Diana and León, Magdalena, ‘Individual Versus Collective Land Rights: Tensions Between Women's and Indigenous Rights Under Neoliberalism’, in Chase, Jacquelyn (ed.), The Spaces of Neoliberalism: Land, Place, and Family in Latin America (Bloomfield, CT: Kumarian Press, 2002), pp. 5386; for a thorough overview of individual versus collective rights, see Speed, , ‘Rights at the Intersection’; Shannon Speed and Jane F. Collier, ‘Limiting Indigenous Autonomy in Chiapas, Mexico: The State Government's use of Human Rights’, Human Rights Quarterly, 22 (2000), pp. 877905; and Sieder and Sierra, ‘Indigenous Women's Access to Justice’.

57 Schild, ‘“Gender Equity” without Social Justice’, p. 28.

58 Mohanty, Chandra Talpade, ‘Under Western Eyes: Feminist Scholarship and Colonial Discourses’, Boundary, 2: 12 (1984), pp. 333–58; and ‘“Under Western Eyes” Revisited: Feminist Solidarity through Anticapitalist Struggles’, Signs, 28: 2 (2002), pp. 499–535.

59 Okin, Susan Moller, Is Multiculturalism Bad for Women? (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1999).

60 See, for example, Burnham, Linda, ‘Race and Gender: The Limits of Analogy’, in Tobach, Ethel and Rosoff, Betty (eds.), Challenging Racism and Sexism: Alternatives to Genetic Explanations (New York: Feminist Press at the City University of New York, 1994). While we see this in many health and social welfare policies in the US, it is most strikingly apparent in the Mexican government's anti-poverty programme Oportunidades, which gives cash payouts largely to female heads of households to meet state-defined health, education and child welfare goals.

61 Increased NGO-isation of Latin American women's movements has been well documented in Alvarez, Sonia E., ‘Advocating Feminism: The Latin American Feminist NGO Boom’, International Feminist Journal of Politics, 1: 2 (1999), pp. 181209; and ‘Beyond NGO-ization? Reflections from Latin America’, Development, 52 (2009), pp. 175–84.

62 The PRI was the hegemonic political force in Mexico for over 70 years until the centre-right PAN won the presidency in 2000. It should also be noted that those on the Left also have perspectives that are informed by deeply embedded forms of cultural racism and coloniality.

63 For continued discussion of indigenous feminism, see Sánchez, Martha, La doble mirada: luchas y experiencias de las mujeres indígenas de América Latina (Mexico City: UNIFEM/ILSB, 2005); and Castillo, Rosalva Aída Hernández, ‘The Emergence of Indigenous Feminism in Latin America’, Signs: Journal of Culture and Society, 35 (2010), pp. 539–45.

64 Carlsen, ‘Autonomía indígena y usos y costumbres’.

* I would like to thank the women involved in the Coordinadora Nacional de Mujeres Indígenas (National Coordinator of Indigenous Women, CONAMI) for sharing their work, histories and visions for a different future with me. I would like to thank the UC MEXUS, the University of California President's Postdoctoral Fellowship and the UCLA Center for the Study of Women for support while conducting some of the fieldwork upon which this essay is based. Several colleagues offered generous feedback as I worked on this piece, for which I am grateful. They include members of the Gender and Cultural Citizenship Working Group, Jonathan Fox, Lynn Stephen, Grace Hong, Karen Brodkin, Horacio Roque Ramírez and the LOUD collective.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Journal of Latin American Studies
  • ISSN: 0022-216X
  • EISSN: 1469-767X
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-latin-american-studies
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *



Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed