We cannot verify your location
Browse Book and Journal Content on Project MUSE

Singing for the Dead

The Politics of Indigenous Revival in Mexico

by Paja Faudree

Publication Year: 2013

Singing for the Dead chronicles ethnic revival in Oaxaca, Mexico, where new forms of singing and writing in the local Mazatec indigenous language are producing powerful, transformative political effects. Paja Faudree argues for the inclusion of singing as a necessary component in the polarized debates about indigenous orality and literacy, and she considers how the coupling of literacy and song has allowed people from the region to create texts of enduring social resonance. She examines how local young people are learning to read and write in Mazatec as a result of the region's new Day of the Dead song contest. Faudree also studies how tourist interest in local psychedelic mushrooms has led to their commodification, producing both opportunities and challenges for songwriters and others who represent Mazatec culture. She situates these revival movements within the contexts of Mexico and Latin America, as well as the broad, hemisphere-wide movement to create indigenous literatures. Singing for the Dead provides a new way to think about the politics of ethnicity, the success of social movements, and the limits of national belonging.

Published by: Duke University Press


pdf iconDownload PDF (96.3 KB)
p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

pdf iconDownload PDF (43.5 KB)
pp. 2-7


pdf iconDownload PDF (41.6 KB)
pp. vii-viii


pdf iconDownload PDF (49.0 KB)
pp. ix-xii

Note on Orthographic and Linguistic Conventions

pdf iconDownload PDF (46.4 KB)
pp. xiii-xvi

read more

Introduction: Leaving the Pueblo

pdf iconDownload PDF (294.4 KB)
pp. 1-29

Two months after I began research for this book in the Zapotec town of Yalálag, in Mexico’s Oaxaca State, a man named Roberto Limeta Mestas was killed.1 According to half of the town, he was murdered by his political enemies. According to the other half, he was the victim of so-called friendly fire, killed not by those he was fighting against but by his own compatriots...

read more

1. From Revolution to Renaissance: A Political Geography and History of “Deep Mexico”

pdf iconDownload PDF (675.7 KB)
pp. 30-74

As some Mazatecs would have people believe, they are the only Indians left in Mexico yet to lose their heads.1 Yet whatever it is that unites people as Mazatecs— setting them apart from other groups while creating a place for them in the national imagination—is not nearly as heroic and primordial as the story suggests. Nevertheless, the attempt to draw such boundaries is itself...

read more

2. Revival in the “Land of the Magic Mushroom” : A Recent History of Ethnic Relations in the Sierra Mazateca

pdf iconDownload PDF (255.3 KB)
pp. 75-104

In this chapter I focus on the social implications of two recent historical events in the Sierra Mazateca. These events involved encounters between cho4ta4xi1n and cho4ta4yo4ma4—locals from the Sierra and people from outside it—and suggest how locals’ understandings of indigenous identity are at odds with those who arrive from beyond the region.1 Although both events...

read more

3. Singing for the Spirits: The Annual Day of the Dead Song Contest

pdf iconDownload PDF (473.0 KB)
pp. 105-140

In this chapter, I consider how the histories of literacy, writing, and politics of ethnicity laid out in previous chapters condition indigenous revival in the present. While ethnic revival has taken various forms in Mexico, this book concerns a particular type centering on revitalizing and strengthening indigenous languages that are still widely spoken. Though such movements...

read more

4. Scenes from a Nativist Reformation: The Mazatec Indigenous Church

pdf iconDownload PDF (201.6 KB)
pp. 141-173

In chapter 3 I discussed the annual Day of the Dead Song Contest, a revival project that has found enormous popular success.1 I argue that the movement has such astonishing grassroots appeal because it was tailored so carefully to local values and norms and draws so heavily on existing, highly salient, ethnically marked practices and discourses. In this chapter, I present a case...

read more

5. Meeting at the Family Crypt: Social Fault Lines and the Fragility of Community

pdf iconDownload PDF (206.1 KB)
pp. 174-196

This chapter considers what the Sierra’s two revival projects—the Mazatec Indigenous Church and the Day of the Dead Song Contest (and its associated activities)—can tell us about the politics of ethnic revival when viewed on an intimate scale. I first discuss the contentious position the Mazatec Indigenous Church occupies in the Sierra. Objections other people have launched...

read more

6. Seeing Double: Indigenous Authors, Readers, and the Paradox of Revival

pdf iconDownload PDF (183.9 KB)
pp. 197-235

The poem excerpted in the epigraph, “Tu laanu, tu lanu” (“Who Are We? What Is Our Name?”), is from a widely anthologized work by Victor de la Cruz, one of Mexico’s most prominent indigenous writers.1 While his history is unique in many ways, it is also representative of the indigenous intellectuals who drive “the continent-wide rise in . . . literatures in the indigenous languages...

read more

Conclusion: Singing for the Dead and the Living: Revival, Indigenous Publics, and the National Afterlife

pdf iconDownload PDF (139.9 KB)
pp. 236-250

Just before I left for Mexico to begin research for this book, I attended a conference required by one of the granting agencies that generously funded my research. The program was interdisciplinary, and I was one of the few anthropologists participating. Most of the other attendees were social scientists from other disciplines. The keynote address, for example, was given by a sociologist...


pdf iconDownload PDF (147.8 KB)
pp. 251-276


pdf iconDownload PDF (113.7 KB)
pp. 277-296


pdf iconDownload PDF (103.7 KB)
pp. 297-315

E-ISBN-13: 9780822391890
E-ISBN-10: 0822391899
Print-ISBN-13: 9780822354314
Print-ISBN-10: 0822354314

Page Count: 331
Illustrations: 23 photographs, 4 tables, 3 maps
Publication Year: 2013

Edition: 1