Lecture – Race, violence and death in post-national Mexico – WISER – Thursday, 17 September, 2015 – 12:00


By Federico Navarete, Historian and Anthropologist at the Instituto de Investigaciones Históricas, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México

This lecture will explore the complex relations between the racialized history of the construction of the Mexican nation-state since the 19th century and its current political crisis and the undeclared state of war in many parts of the country in the past 10 years. I shall retrace the story of how the myth of mestizaje, racial admixture, was created by the Mexican state and its ideologues to transcend the spectre of racial war between Indians and Whites. Thus mestizaje became the idiom of national identity, the anchor of the authoritarian regime of the Mexican Revolution, and the basis of an ambitious programme of government sponsored ethnocide against the Indigenous populations, called “indigenismo”, throughout the 20th century. Since the 1980s this model of radicalised nationhood has been eroded by the crisis of the authoritarian state, the emergence of a vast and plural civil society, the open contestation of the Indigenous groups, and the spectacular growth of a variety of criminal and non- state actors that challenge state domination. The result is a new “discontinuous” nationhood in which economic wellbeing, death, security, citizenship and basic human rights are distributed in a high and increasingly unequal fashion along convergent, but also distinct, fault lines of class, gender, ethnicity and race. The recent case of the forcible disappearance of the 43 students from Ayotzinapa, and the reaction of wide sectors of Mexican society in their defence will be discussed both as an example of these discontinuities and also of the emergence of an alternative sense of common citizenship that aspires to transcend them.

VENUE:  WISER Seminar Room, 6th Floor of the Richard Ward Building, Wits Main Campus