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Power, Community and the State

Power, Community and the State: The Political Anthropology of Organisation in Mexico

Monique Nuijten
Copyright Date: 2003
Published by: Pluto Books
Pages: 240
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt18dzv4z
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  • Book Info
    Power, Community and the State
    Book Description:

    This book explores the balance of power between the state and local communities, with particular reference to societies in the developing world. Nuijten shows how rituals of bureaucratic power and accusations of corruption give flesh to incredible fantasies, and conspiracy theories among officials, peasants and brokers. At the same time she shows that in this labyrinthine world of bureaucratic obstacles and state control, local agrarian communities manage to find certain room for autonomy. Drawing on her extensive fieldwork in Mexico, and her experience in the field of development, Nuijten draws wide conclusions that can be applied to many societies. Providing a detailed ethnography, she focuses on various themes, including a theoretical anthropology of state power; families and factionalism after agrarian reform; local organisation; questions of law; corruption; and development theory. Focusing on the relationships between a local community and the state, this study is relevant not only to political anthropology, but also to development studies more generally. ‘an outstanding contribution’ John Gledhill, Professor of Social Anthropology, University of Manchester, editor of the journal Critique of Anthropology.

    eISBN: 978-1-84964-162-3
    Subjects: Anthropology
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Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations
  1. Front Matter (pp. iii-iv)
  2. Table of Contents (pp. v-xi)
  3. 1 AN ANTHROPOLOGY OF POWER AND THE STATE (pp. 1-25)

    It is remarkable that, at a time when the nation-state appears to be losing influence to global and transnational influences, anthropologists are showing an increased interest in debates about the state (Scott 1998, Trouillot 2001). This increased interest can be seen as a renewed concern with power and rule at a time when traditional structures and boundaries no longer seem to apply. It could be argued that while the state apparatus is being dismantled the notion of the state is becoming central in fantasies of rule, governance and order (Blom and Stepputat 2001). However, both power and the state are...

  4. 2 FACTIONALISM AND FAMILY AFTER THE AGRARIAN REFORM (pp. 26-47)

    This chapter engages in the discussion oncacicazgoand factionalism, which are both widely used to explain political processes in rural areas in Mexico. To that end, the history of land reform in La Cano a is presented and an analysis of the ways in which relations in the village developed after land reform. Particular situations obviously varied greatly, but the phenomenon of the local bosses who arose after land reform and combined political and economic control is very common in rural Mexico (Tapia 1992). In the literature it is claimed that many ruralcaciquesactually

    find their origin in...

  5. 3 POLITICS AND LOCAL ORGANISATION (pp. 48-69)

    This chapter is concerned with the organisational characteristics of the ejido. The organisation of the ejido at the local level is laid down in detail in the Agrarian Law. Since the change of law in 1992, ejidos have more freedom in their local regulation. Yet, the ejido is a formal organisation with officially recognised members, resources and responsibilities. The ejido has an executive committee for daily management and a general assembly of all ejidatarios, which is the highest authority at the local level and takes decisions by majority of votes during the monthly ejido meetings. The executive committee also represents...

  6. 4 ILLEGALITY AND THE LAW (pp. 70-90)

    This chapter follows the development of land transfers in La Canoa in the period between the establishment of the ejido in 1938 and 1992, the year that the agrarian law was changed. Many illegal transfers of ejido plots have taken place in those years. Many ejido plots have been sold and others have been divided into several plots and were passed to several children. The renting out of ejido land by migrants was also common practice. The majority of these illegal arrangements were never brought pin the official arena. In fact, the ejidatarios developed considerable autonomy in land transactions and...

  7. 5 THE ‘LOST LAND’ I: THE PRIEST AND THE LAWYER (pp. 91-118)

    In this chapter and the next I follow the struggle for the lost land’ of La Canoa, in which the ejidatarios try to recover land that belongs to their ejido but which is in possession of several private landowners. For over 50 years the ejidatarios have tried to recover this land and have demanded that the Ministry of Agrarian Reform (SRA) resolve this conflict, but, without significant results so far.

    The land conflict of La Canoa is not a special case. The legal status of a lot of land in Mexico remains ambiguous and land conflicts can linger on for...

  8. 6 THE ‘LOST LAND’ II: THE SURVEYORS (pp. 119-151)

    This chapter continues to follow the same conflict of the ‘lost land’, however the SRA surveyors now play a central role. The unflagging efforts by Lupe and Ramón had not been in vain and the bureaucratic machine of the SRA was set in motion. In a period of 18 months, five different SRA surveyors in succession were ordered to investigate the case of La Canoa. While in Chapter 5 we saw flows of ejidatarios to many different offices in Autlán, Guadalajara and Mexico City, in this chapter we see flows in a different direction: surveyors from Guadalajara and Mexico City...

  9. 7 INSIDE THE ‘HOPE-GENERATING MACHINE’ (pp. 152-175)

    It is remarkable that few studies have been made of the working of state bureaucracies, while discussions on the power of the state abound. For example, in Mexico, despite its central role in agrarian matters, the agrarian bureaucracy has been a largely neglected subject in the academic literature. The bureaucracy is generally depicted as a highly corrupt political instrument, which has only contributed to the continuing exploitation of the peasantry. Despite a few good studies (Grindle 1977, Hardy 1984) there has been far too much loose theorising about the internal functioning of Mexican government institutions and the life world of...

  10. 8 DEVELOPMENT DISCOURSES AND PARTICIPATORY APPROACHES (pp. 176-193)

    Much development literature gives a central role to local organisation for improving the situation of the poor. In these works participatory approaches and grassroots initiatives have become very popular. However, these approaches tend to ignore the ways in which forms of organising and external interventions are always already embedded within wider fields of power. This explains why many so-called ‘participatory bottom-up’ projects often turn into top-down impositions bearing little relation to the organising priorities of the ‘target groups’.

    This chapter discusses in detail the implementation of one of the programmes that was introduced with the new Agrarian Law in Mexico,...

  11. 9 CORRUPTION, ORDER AND THE IDEA OF THE STATE (pp. 194-208)

    This book began with the argument that anthropology should pay more attention to relations of power in general and to different dimensions of state power in particular. The in-depth study of the ejido La Canoa showed that organising practices develop within multiple force fields with differing dynamics, rather than within one overarching field. Force fields cohere around certain problems and resources and lead to forms of ordering in which socio-political categories with differing positions and interests define themselves. As organising practices tend to transcend boundaries in an increasingly ‘deterritorialized’ world (Appadurai 1997) it is not possible to ‘freeze’ force fields...

  12. NOTES (pp. 209-211)
  13. REFERENCES (pp. 212-220)
  14. INDEX (pp. 221-228)