The Politics and Performance of Mestizaje in Latin America: Mestizo Acts, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

The Politics and Performance of Mestizaje in Latin America

Mestizo Acts, 1st Edition

Edited by Paul K Eiss, Joanne Rapport


136 pages

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The term "mestizaje" is generally translated as race mixture, with races typically understood as groups differentiated by skin color or other physical characteristics. Yet such understandings seem contradicted by contemporary understandings of race as a cultural construct, or idea, rather than as a biological entity. How might one then approach mestizaje in a way that is not definitionally predicated on ‘race,’ or at least, on a modernist formulation of race as phenotypically expressed biological difference? The contributors to this volume provide explorations of this question in varied Latin American contexts (Mexico, Guatemala, Bolivia, Colombia, Peru), from the16th century to the present. They treat ‘mestizo acts’ neither as expressions of pre-existing social identities, nor as ideologies enforced from above, but as cultural performances enacted in the in-between spaces of social and political life. Moreover, they show how ‘mestizo acts’ not only express or reinforce social hierarchies, but institute or change them – seeking to prove – or to dismantle – genealogies of race, blood, sex, and language in public and political ways. The chapters in this book originally published as a special issue of Latin American and Caribbean Ethnic Studies.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Mestizo acts

Paul K. Eiss


1. Indian allies and white antagonists: toward an alternative mestizaje on Mexico’s Costa Chica

Laura A. Lewis


2. Playing mestizo: festivity, language, and theatre in Yucatán, Mexico

Paul K. Eiss


3. Foundational essays as ‘mestizo-criollo acts’: the Bolivian case

Javier Sanjinés C.


4. Mestizaje as ethical disposition: indigenous rights in the neoliberal state

Deborah Poole


5. Racing to the top: descent ideologies and why Ladinos never meant to be mestizos in colonial Guatemala

John M. Watanabe


6. Mestizaje, multiculturalism, liberalism, and violence

Peter Wade

About the Editors

Paul K. Eiss is an Associate Professor of Anthropology and History at Carnegie Mellon. In publications like In the Name of El Pueblo: Place, Community and the Politics of History in Yucatán (2010), he explores: labor, value, commodities, indigeneity, mestizaje, media, violence and the politics of historical memory.

Joanne Rappaport is Professor of Spanish and Portuguese, at Georgetown University. She is the author of The Disappearing Mestizo: Configuring Difference in the Colonial New Kingdom of Granada (2014), Intercultural Utopias: Public Intellectuals, Cultural Experimentation, and Ethnic Dialogue in Colombia (2005) and coauthor (with Tom Cummins) of Beyond the Lettered City: Indigenous Literacies in the Andes (2011), Cumbe Reborn: An Andean Ethnography of History (1994) and The Politics of Memory: Native Historical Interpretation in the Northern Andes (1998).

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