What is an Indigenous Author?: Minority Authorship and the Politics of Voice in Mexico
Abstract

This article examines the politics of voice in Mexican indigenous authorship for the insights it might offer anthropological theory. It takes up the multiple barriers of access indigenous authors face in participating in authorship as a general project, noting the importance of authorship as a point of entry into such universal projects as citizenship, modernity, human rights, democracy, and intellectual property rights. That resonance places the case of Mexican indigenous authors within an established line of anthropological inquiry aiming to examine universal projects ethnographically. I suggest that the particular politics of voice in Mexican indigenous authorship depends on multiple forms of “vocal constriction.” Indigenous authors try to reverse this reduction of heteroglossia by espousing assorted strategies designed to expand the vocalic field. My analysis here shows how particular indigenous authors have deployed such strategies, and indicates some of the effects of their efforts. In particular, I stress one “strategy” that most indigenous authors would neither recognize as such nor consciously adopt: the cultivation of conflict, through promoting opposing models of indigenous authorship. I claim that indigenous authors routinely instantiate and expand upon indigenous authorship through an agonistic semiotic process whereby their own models of authorship are opposed to those that other indigenous authors embody. While the participants themselves rarely see such conflicts as productive, their disputes perform crucial labor in expanding the field of possibility for indigenous authors. Thus attending to the politics of voice surrounding authorship offers a new and relatively untapped vein of inquiry for the ethnographic analysis of large-scale social projects. Furthermore, given the discipline’s disproportionate interest in authorship as a reflexive rather than ethnographic endeavor, engaging with authorship ethnographically offers a new opportunity for moving outside entrenched grooves in disciplinary discourse and practice.


pdf