Reinventing Practice in a Disenchanted World: Bourdieu and Urban Poverty in Oaxaca, Mexico

By Cheleen Ann-Catherine Mahar | Go to book overview

TO THE READER

As a young woman in graduate school, I went with other anthropologists to work with the urban poor in Oaxaca, Mexico. Since then, over a period of thirty years, a group of Mexican women, as well as a number of their daughters and sons, have confided stories about their lives to me. These stories tell of the struggles they overcame to create homes in a squatter settlement on an urban hillside, on land they did not own. Here they raised their families, found work, and created a future for themselves. Between 1968 and 1974, I worked with another anthropologist in Colonia Hermosa. Later, from 1996 to 2000, I returned again to visit and to exchange news and stories.

These accounts were private, yet the inhabitants of Colonia Hermosa have allowed me to share them more widely in order to explicate the broader story of Mexico and globalization. The people I spoke to, and who became friends, felt their experiences might be helpful to others following a similar path. In general, these were rural people coming to the city for the first time, and they believed their own journeys might serve as useful sources of information for others. The relationships I developed in this community were based on trust: trust that I would not misrepresent their stories, and trust that I would not use their names. I have taken pains in transcribing their words, as the process of writing clearly changes the experience of the actual interview. I have tried to set each individual in context, and to draw a vivid picture both of the circumstances of each interview session and of each person's broader life history.

Subjectivity is essential to the story social science tells, but like its counterpart, objectivity, it is rarely enough. Our job in anthropology and sociology is not only to record and witness the lives of others, but also to learn how to listen at a deeper level and, through listening, discern the social logic of the domination and symbolic violence that are common in the global community. The personal accounts presented in this book are, on one hand, personal and subjective, but on the other, reflective of larger societal structures. In Colonia Hermosa, families and individuals are framed by personal dispositions and familial logic, but also by a larger social logic of late and developing capitalism. My hope is that readers will find that this book helps unlock both the logic of the self and, in part, the logic of the global system. The theoretical

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