Brad H. Wright

Award Information

2018 IDRF Program

HistoryMiddle Tennessee State University

Constructing Community, Contesting History: Popular Politics and Peripheral Citizenship in Urban Mexico, 1965-1993

My dissertation will offer an alternative perspective on politics in Cold War Mexico by privileging the political cultures of the urban poor. From the vantage points of the Santa Cecilia, Lomas de Polanco, Santa Margarita, Santa Rosa, and Vicente Guerrero neighborhoods on the periphery of Guadalajara, popular education, liberation theology, and urban space informed the development of a grassroots, counterhegemonic presence in the public sphere during the 1970s and 1980s. What was the nature of popular political participation in the authoritarian context of this period? Moreover, how was power produced, contested, and negotiated on the peripheries of Latin American cities in this era of neoliberalism? Anchored in peripheral settlements common to Latin America's major cities after World War II, Christian base communities (CEBs) and the urban popular movement articulated and performed notions of citizenship and democracy based on ideals of participation, rights, justice, and autonomy. CEBs in Guadalajara built on well-established Catholic organizing traditions, and the popular education theories of Brazilian educator Paulo Freire, to elaborate a revised political lexicon and expanded political repertoire for popular movements to capitalize on. Perhaps most strikingly, women were the clear majority of active participants in CEBs and popular movement groups. How does the shift to greater initiative and mobilization among poor and working-class women alter our understandings of social relations and political culture in urban Mexico after 1968? More broadly, how does this history affect conceptualizations of citizenship, democracy, and the public sphere in twentieth century Latin America? Answers to these questions help contextualize current crises and conflicts in Mexico, considering the ongoing emptiness of electoral politics, the persistence of authoritarian and neoliberal rule, and a civil society terrain still highly contested.