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Land, Livelihood, and Civility in Southern Mexico: Oaxaca Valley Communities in History

Overview

In the Valley of Oaxaca in Mexico's Southern Highland region, three facets of sociocultural life have been interconnected and interactive from colonial times to the present: first, community land as a space to live and work; second, a civil-religious system managed by reciprocity and market activity wherein obligations of citizenship, office, and festive sponsorships are met by expenditures of labor-time and money; and third, livelihood. In this book, noted Oaxacan scholar Scott Cook draws on thirty-five years of...
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Land, Livelihood, and Civility in Southern Mexico: Oaxaca Valley Communities in History

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Overview

In the Valley of Oaxaca in Mexico's Southern Highland region, three facets of sociocultural life have been interconnected and interactive from colonial times to the present: first, community land as a space to live and work; second, a civil-religious system managed by reciprocity and market activity wherein obligations of citizenship, office, and festive sponsorships are met by expenditures of labor-time and money; and third, livelihood. In this book, noted Oaxacan scholar Scott Cook draws on thirty-five years of fieldwork (1965-1990) in the region to present a masterful ethnographic historical account of how nine communities in the Oaxaca Valley have striven to maintain land, livelihood, and civility in the face of transformational and cumulative change across five centuries.
Drawing on an extensive database that he accumulated through participant observation, household surveys, interviews, case studies, and archival work in more than twenty Oaxacan communities, Cook documents and explains how peasant-artisan villagers in the Oaxaca Valley have endeavored over centuries to secure and/or defend land, worked and negotiated to subsist and earn a living, and striven to meet expectations and obligations of local citizenship. His findings identify elements and processes that operate across communities or distinguish some from others. They also underscore the fact that landholding is crucial for the sociocultural life of the valley. Without land for agriculture and resource extraction, occupational options are restricted, livelihood is precarious and contingent, and civility is jeopardized.
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What People Are Saying

Brian Hamnett
In Scott Cook's examination of social relations, land ownership, and artisan trades in rural Oaxaca, the anthropologist reveals not only his profound knowledge of village life but also a clear understanding of the historical perspective in which it has existed over time. The present work bears the hallmark of long experience in the field and much thought concerning the lives of the people about whom he writes.
John Chance
A very good read. It transported me right back to Oaxaca. I think its greatest strength lies in the wealth of detail Cook provides on land struggles and commodity production and marketing—the two main topics. A third topic, the civil-religious hierarchy is also covered well and with fascinating detail. I didn’t look at the photos until finishing the chapters, and when I did, I found that they validated images in my mind’s eye that the text had already conjured up—a tribute to the vividness of Cook’s descriptions. I think he has handled the historical materials quite well. He approaches them carefully and thoughtfully, and his interpretations are appropriate and consistent with his data. . . . He deals effectively with both temporal continuity and change. . . . I felt as if I understood Oaxaca much better after reading the book. . . . It adds considerably to our ethnographic and historical knowledge of the Valley, and it does it in a very humane and interesting way.
Colin Clarke
Scott Cook connects his anthropological research on peasant commodity production in Oaxaca, Mexico, back to the post-colonial historical record for the same communities. He is able to show that the apparent continuity of small-scale rural activities over time is, in reality, shot through with change brought about by peasant endeavor, in the context of population growth and shifting access to land and markets over the last century and a half. A key feature of the book is the use made of oral history, based on interviews held between 1965 and 1990, to link to the Oaxacan archival materials.
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Product Details

Meet the Author

Scott Cook is Professor Emeritus of Anthropology at the University of Connecticut, where he also directed the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies and the Puerto Rican/Latino Studies Institute. His seven previous books include Markets in Oaxaca, Obliging Need: Rural Petty Industry in Mexican Capitalism, and Understanding Commodity Cultures: Explorations in Economic Anthropology with Case Studies from Mexico. He lives in San Marcos, Texas.
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Table of Contents

List of Maps and Tables
Preface
Acknowledgments
Introduction
1. The Teitipac Communities: Peasant-Artisans on the Hacienda’s Periphery
2. Hacienda San Antonio Buenavista from Two Perspectives: Hacendado and Terrazguero
3. San Juan Teitipac: Metateros Here and There
4. San Sebastián Teitipac: Metateros and Civility
5. San Lorenzo Albarradas, Xaagá, and the Hacienda Regime
6. "Castellanos" as Plaiters and Weavers: San Lorenzo Albarradas and Xaagá
7. The Jalieza Communities: Peasant-Artisans with Mixed Crafts
8. Santa Cecilia Jalieza: Defending Homeland in Hostile Surroundings
9. Magdalena Ocotlán: From Terrazgueros to Artisanal Ejidatarios
10. Magdalena’s Metateros: Servants of the Saints and the Market
11. Conclusion
Photo Essay
Glossary
Notes
Bibliography
Index
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