Social Inequality in Oaxaca: A History of Resistance and Change

Social Inequality in Oaxaca: A History of Resistance and Change

Social Inequality in Oaxaca: A History of Resistance and Change

Social Inequality in Oaxaca: A History of Resistance and Change

Synopsis

This may be the only book that analyzes the urbanization of one area from its origins more than two thousand years ago to the present. Arthur Murphy and Alex Stepick examine Oaxaca, Mexico, where they have been doing research regularly for the last twenty years. Paying particular attention to neighborhoods, families, and economic activities, they focus on issues of poverty and inequality. Oaxaca is a city marked by socioeconomic inequality that has felt the alternating trends of integration into and isolation from the broader world. It is a city in which tens of thousands of households resolutely try to adapt, to survive and pass on something of themselves to their children. With rich ethnographic material and historical research, Murphy and Stepick describe gender roles, the dynamic nature of households, the importance of compadrazgo (co-godparenthood) as a social institution, class-based political struggles and strikes, and the role of children in redeeming their parents from poverty. Individual life histories emerge from their research, each representing diverse class, familial, and economic structures within Oaxacan society. Author note: Arthur D. Murphy is Associate Professor of Anthropology at Georgia State University. >P>Alex Stepick is Associate Professor of Anthropology at Florida International University.

Excerpt

Once Oaxaca gets hold of you, it is hard to get away. I have certainly found it that way, as I enter my third decade of association with the city and region. For many of us who have lived and worked there and studied the fascinations of the place, Oaxaca is simply one of the most charming places we have been: good, although not high, living, among some of the most pleasant people in North America.

The two authors of this book have lived in and studied the city since the early 1970s. When they arrived, hair was in and never grey; we were all learning about computers, and trying to get the Oaxacans to cooperate in the daunting exercise of modeling their lives. the authors remained to spend two decades exploring how the city of Oaxaca worked, starting as most urban anthropologists do in one tiny colonia popular and working their way out of it, constructing a truly interdisciplinary approach and analysis.

This book incorporates many of the lessons that social anthropologists, sociologists, political scientists, and economists have learned in the last twenty years. When this all started, American behavioral science was still in vogue, and a neo-Boasian attentiveness to texts and data informed their work. An uninspected modernization theory was more or less taken for granted by anthropological practitioners. in opposition to behavioral science models, Mexican (and Latin American) social science was developing its models of the world system and dependency relations that were to undo modernization theory, even as the latter was triumphing in the applied academe and development circles of North America. Both approaches tended to presume that urbanization was a modern phenomenon that had peculiar effects on newly arrived migrants from seemingly traditional rural villages. They differed primarily in assessing who and what forces initiated and benefited from the increased urbanization seen during the second half of the twentieth century.

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