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The Village Is Like a Wheel

Rethinking Cargos, Family, and Ethnicity in Highland Mexico

Roger Magazine

Publication Year: 2012

In this modern-day anthropological manifesto, Roger Magazine proposes a radical but commonsense change to the study of people whose understanding of the world differs substantially from our own. Specifically, it argues for a major shift in the prevailing approach to the study of rural highland peoples in Mexico. Using ethnographic material, Roger Magazine builds a convincing case that many of the discipline’s usual topics and approaches distract anthropologists from what is truly important to the people whose lives they study. While Western anthropologists have usually focused on the production of things, such as community, social structure, cultural practices, identities, and material goods—since this is what they see as the appropriate objective of productive action in their own lives—residents of rural highland communities in Mexico (among others) are primarily concerned with what Magazine calls the production of active subjectivity in other persons.

According to Magazine, where Western anthropologists often assume that persons are individuals capable of acting on their own to produce things, rural highland Mexicans see persons as inherently interdependent and in need of others even to act. He utilizes the term “active subjectivity” to denote the fact that what they produce in others is not simply action but also a subjective state or attitude of willingness to perform the action.

The author’s goals are to improve understandings of rural highland Mexicans’ lives and to contribute to a broader disciplinary effort aimed at revealing the cultural specificity or ethnocentricity of our supposedly universally applicable concepts and theories.

Published by: University of Arizona Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. iii-iv


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p. vii-vii

List of Illustrations

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p. ix-ix

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pp. xi-xii

This book could not have been written without the financing for fieldwork research generously provided by the Dirección de Investigación of the Universidad Iberoamericana and the Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología (CONACyT). I am also grateful to the University Iberoamericana ...

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1. Introduction: Interdependence and the Production of Active Subjectivity

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pp. 1-22

In this book, I propose an approach to the study of social life in rural highland Mexican communities that integrates local understandings into anthropological thinking. I have attempted to formulate this approach because I felt that my informants’ understandings of their practices did ...

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2. The Texcoco Region and the Village of Tepetlaoxtoc

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pp. 23-39

The Texcoco region occupies the northeast corner of the Valley of Mexico, separated from Mexico City’s urban sprawl by the nearly unpopulated, 16-kilometer-wide, dry Texcoco Lake bed. The city of Texcoco, with its population of about 120,000, is located on the eastern shore of the lake-bed, ...

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3. “La fiesta se hace entre todos”: Rethinking Fiestas and Cargos

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pp. 40-74

From the 1950s until well into the 1980s, the topic of cargo systems was central to anthropological work on highland Mesoamerican villages. Eric Wolf’s (1955) writings on the closed corporate peasant community are usually seen as having initiated this trend even though cargo systems were not ...

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4. Ayuda Among and Within Families

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pp. 75-98

The topic I treat in this chapter, that of family or kinship, is of interest to me because, as in the case of the community and the cargo system, it offers an opportunity to contrast our usual anthropological interest in the production of objects with a local interest in the production of active ...

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5. Problems with “Ethnicity” and “Modernization”

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pp. 99-128

The third and final topic I attempt to rethink, the ethnic relationship between indigenous people and modern or urban “mestizo” people, along with the intertwined question of the former’s transformation into the latter, has been present since the first anthropological studies in Mexico ...

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6. Bridging the Gap

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pp. 129-132

This book constitutes an attempt to suggest the benefits of a shift in our approach to the study of the lives of rural highland peoples in Mexico. Many of anthropology’s usual topics and approaches in the region unavoidably derive from our own culturally and historically determined manner ...


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pp. 133-137


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pp. 139-148


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pp. 149-152

E-ISBN-13: 9780816599387
Print-ISBN-13: 9780816511617

Page Count: 168
Publication Year: 2012