Wandering Peoples

Colonialism, Ethnic Spaces, and Ecological Frontiers in Northwestern Mexico, 1700–1850

Wandering Peoples

Latin America Otherwise

More about this series

Book Pages: 432 Illustrations: 6 illustrations, 5 maps, 4 graphs Published: April 1997

Author: Cynthia Radding

American Studies, Anthropology > Cultural Anthropology, History > Latin American History

Wandering Peoples is a chronicle of cultural resiliency, colonial relations, and trespassed frontiers in the borderlands of a changing Spanish empire. Focusing on the native subjects of Sonora in Northwestern Mexico, Cynthia Radding explores the social process of peasant class formation and the cultural persistence of Indian communities during the long transitional period between Spanish colonialism and Mexican national rule. Throughout this anthropological history, Radding presents multilayered meanings of culture, community, and ecology, and discusses both the colonial policies to which peasant communities were subjected and the responses they developed to adapt and resist them.
Radding describes this colonial mission not merely as an instance of Iberian expansion but as a site of cultural and political confrontation. This alternative vision of colonialism emphasizes the economic links between mission communities and Spanish mercantilist policies, the biological consequences of the Spanish policy of forced congregación, and the cultural and ecological displacements set in motion by the practices of discipline and surveillance established by the religious orders. Addressing wider issues pertaining to ethnic identities and to ecological and cultural borders, Radding’s analysis also underscores the parallel production of colonial and subaltern texts during the course of a 150-year struggle for power and survival.


“[S]uperb . . . . [A] conceptually sophisticated state-of-the-art discussion of social, cultural, and environmental history.” — James Krippner-Martínez , Latin American Research Review

“In Wandering Peoples, Cynthia Radding makes in important contribution to our understanding of the history of the indigenous peoples of northwestern Mexico in a superb study that artfully integrates anthropological and historical approaches to enthnohistory. . . . Radding provides insightful analysis of the dynamics of culture change and culture conflict, particularly as these are related to ecological adaptations. The book has a great deal to offer Latin Americanists as well as anyone interested in these general issues. Finally, it is a beautifully written book that is a pleasure to read.” — Janine Gasco, Journal of Anthropological Research

“Radding’s multilayered analysis is grounded on the central themes of ethnicity, class, and community. . . . Largely free of loaded jargon, this book is a refreshing example of ‘new’ cultural geography. — Jeffrey S. Smith , Geographical Review

“The depth and thoroughness of Cynthia Radding’s personal grasp and articulate presentation of every aspect of the challenging Sonoran desert is unparalleled in the desert’s expanding historiography.” — Kieran McCarty, Colonial Latin American Historical Review

Wandering Peoples is an example of regional history at its best. Cynthia Radding is one of the finest practitioners in the emerging field of Latin American ecological history; indeed, she is playing a major role in shaping the field. This book is an important and innovative contribution to colonial Mexican studies and will resonate with scholars working on any part of the globe who are engaged with its key themes.” — Ann Wightman, Wesleyan University

“Here, for the first time, we get an extensive treatment of the ‘ordinary’ men and women who populated the missions, presidios, mining camps, and other settlements of Sonora—they have names, identities, agendas, and complex strategies for coping with the multiple demands they face. Those specializing in other geographical areas—not just Latin Americanists—would do well to consider the concrete grounding of this working model.” — Cheryl Martin, The University of Texas, El Paso


Availability: In stock
Price: $30.95

Open Access

Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Cynthia Radding is Assistant Professor of History at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

Rights and licensing

Winner, Erminie Wheeler-Voegelin Award (AES)

Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-1899-6 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-1907-8
Publicity material