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"Shaping the Motherhood of Indigenous Mexico""Shaping the Motherhood of Indigenous Mexico"

Book Launch and Discussion

Thursday, September 12, 2013 - 4:00pm
C103 Hesburgh Center

Carolyn Nordstrom
Kellogg Institute Faculty Fellow
Professor of Anthropology

Vania Smith-Oka
Kellogg Institute Faculty Fellow
Assistant Professor of Anthropology

Linda Whiteford
Professor of Anthropology
University of South Florida

Gabriela Soto Laveaga
Associate Professor of History
University of California, Santa Barbara

Reception to follow

Cosponsored with the Department of Anthropology

Shaping the Motherhood of Indigenous Mexico
Vania Smith-Oka

Mainstream Mexican views of indigenous women center on them as problematic mothers, and development programs have included the goal of helping these women become "good mothers." Economic incentives and conditional cash transfers are the vehicles for achieving this goal. With ethnographic immediacy, Shaping the Motherhood of Indigenous Mexico examines the dynamics among the various players--indigenous mothers, clinicians, and representatives of development programs. The women's voices lead the reader to understand the structures of dependency that paradoxically bind indigenous women within a program that calls for their empowerment.

The cash transfer program is Oportunidades, which enrolls more than a fifth of Mexico's population. It expects mothers to become involved in their children's lives at three nodes--health, nutrition, and education. If women do not comply with the standards of modern motherhood, they are dropped from the program and lose the bi-monthly cash payments. Smith-Oka explores the everyday implementation of the program and its unintended consequences.

The mothers are often berated by clinicians for having too many children (Smith-Oka provides background on the history of eugenics and population control in Mexico) and for other examples of their "backward" ways. An entire chapter focuses on the humor indigenous women use to cope with disrespectful comments. Ironically, this form of resistance allows the women to accept the situation that controls their behavior.

Aditional Events of Interest

Friday, September 13 – 9:30 am

Hesburgh Center Room C103

“Through the Social Violence Lens: Understanding Cholera in Highland Ecuador”

Linda Whiteford
Professor of Anthropology
University of South Florida

The 1991 cholera epidemic was treated using standard public health measures that in urban areas were, in time, successful. However, in the rural highlands where much of Ecuador’s indigenous population lives, those measures were far less effective. This presentation explains how the social violence perspective aided in the understanding of what failed where, and why, and what finally did succeed in curtailing the spread of the disease in the highlands. The presentation explains how a new perspective was needed to design an intervention that would work for the indigenous people in the Andes, one that combined epidemiology, ethnographic thinking, participatory research, non-formal education, and the art of paraphrasing, all projected through the perspective of structural violence.

Cosponsored with the Eck Institute for Global Health

Friday, September 13 – 12:00 pm

Hesburgh Center Room C103

There will be a pre-circulated paper for this worksop. Please contact to reserve your seat.

Mexico Working Group Workshop
“Sanitizing Rebellion: Doctors, Hospitals, and Social Unrest in late 1960s Mexico”

Gabriela Soto Laveaga
Associate Professor of History
University of California, Santa Barbara

In fall 1964 medical interns and residents of Mexico's vast network of state hospitals and clinics threatened to walk off the job. Yet their demands for a living wage and better working conditions quickly transformed into broader claims for social justice across Mexico. The image of white-collar workers making similar demands to those of peasants and laborers mobilized other groups, including students. This talk examines the root of the medical movement by analyzing the role of physicians in carrying out Mexico's 20th century promise of “universal” healthcare.




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