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Who is Indigenous, what is Indigeneity?

Federico Navarrete

In many Latin American countries the existence and continuous presence of peoples, groups and persons who call themselves Indigenous (and the equivalent terms of Native, Amerindian, originary) or who have been externally defined as such, is taken as an everyday reality. However, to call oneself Indigenous involves complex historical, political and cultural definitions; to be designated as such is to be racialized and more often than not discriminated or excluded. Ascertaining that a person or group is Indigenous is usually a contested and fraught process, informed by a changing social context and embedded in relations of mutual definition with those who define themselves as non-Indians. The existence of these groups is constantly debated and even denied in social and academic realms, who defend the notion of “mestizaje” or use the concept of “ethnocide”. Often those who define themselves as such are questioned in their motivations and their “authenticity” is put in doubt and they are labeled as “self-defined”.

The course will address these debates, taking into account the theoretical perspectives of anthropologists and historians and the self-definitions of Indigenous intellectuals.

Required reading

  • Aguilar, Yasnaya, ÄÄ, Manifiestos sobre la diversidad lingüística, Editorial Almadía, 2021 [Moodle]
  • Navarrete Linares, Federico, “¿Qué significaba ser indio en el siglo XIX?”, in Los indígenas en la Independencia y en la Revolución Mexicana, Miguel León-Portilla y Alicia Mayer, coords., México, Instituto de Investigaciones Históricas-Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, 2011, pp. 171-190. [Moodle]
  • Viveiros de Castro, Eduardo, “Sobre la noción de etnocidio, con especial atención al caso brasileño”, Estudios de Historia Moderna y Contemporánea de México, 2020, n. 60, pp.111-144. [Moodle]

Further readings

  • Kurnitsky, Horst, Extravíos de la antropología mexicana, México, Fineo, 2006.
  • López Caballero, Paula, “Inhabiting Identities: On the Elusive Quality of Indigenous Identity in Mexico”, Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology, 2021, vol. 26, pp. 124-146.
  • Rozat, Guy, Indios imaginarios e indios reales en los relatos de la conquista de  México , México, Tava, 1993.