Zapotec Women

Gender, Class, and Ethnicity in Globalized Oaxaca

Zapotec Women

Book Pages: 408 Illustrations: 22 photos, 37 tables, 2 maps Published: October 2005

Author: Lynn Stephen

Anthropology > Cultural Anthropology, Gender and Sexuality > Feminism and Women’s Studies, Latin American Studies > Mexico

In this extensively revised and updated second edition of her classic ethnography, Lynn Stephen explores the intersection of gender, class, and indigenous ethnicity in southern Mexico. She provides a detailed study of how the lives of women weavers and merchants in the Zapotec-speaking town of Teotitlán del Valle, Oaxaca, have changed in response to the international demand for Oaxacan textiles. Based on Stephen’s research in Teotitlán during the mid-1980s, in 1990, and between 2001 and 2004, this volume provides a unique view of a Zapotec community balancing a rapidly advancing future in export production with an entrenched past anchored in indigenous culture.

Stephen presents new information about the weaving cooperatives women have formed over the last two decades in an attempt to gain political and cultural rights within their community and standing as independent artisans within the global market. She also addresses the place of Zapotec weaving within Mexican folk art and the significance of increased migration out of Teotitlán. The women weavers and merchants collaborated with Stephen on the research for this book, and their perspectives are key to her analysis of how gender relations have changed within rituals, weaving production and marketing, local politics, and family life. Drawing on the experiences of women in Teotitlán, Stephen considers the prospects for the political, economic, and cultural participation of other indigenous women in Mexico under the policies of economic neoliberalism which have prevailed since the 1990s.


Zapotec Women can serve as a textbook in methodology as well as an ethnographic summary, and because of its straightforward writing and representation of real people, it would be welcome in graduate as well as undergraduate courses.” — June Nash, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute

“[A] tour de force. . . .” — Michael James Higgins, Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology

“[M]ore than seventy pages have been added to the new edition [of Zapotec Women], including new narrative, new analysis, new photographs, new tables, and new reference matter. . . . Ultimately, this new book is richer because it too has a history. In fact, Zaptoec Women, is now positioned as an unfolding story, a serial account of the world created by Zapotec women and North American anthropologists that will change, grow, shrink, and expand as long as people are involved in an exchange of political, economic, and cultural goods and ideas. Given the violent summer of 2006 and the unresolved political conflicts in Oaxaca, there is a renewed urgency to read this volume.” — Patrick McNamara, The Americas

“In a narrative style that mirrors the weaving portrayed in the book, Stephen adds layer after layer of the town’s history, kinship, class relations, migration to the United States, the weaving tradition, the surge of new cooperatives, as well as the change of the strong local ceremonial life from religious festivities to life-cycle ones.” — Raúl Acosta, Journal of Peasant Studies

“Of substantial interest to Latin Americanists and feminist anthropologists, Zapotec Women is also a valuable ethnographic example for students of anthropology and all others interested in issues of gender, economics, and rural development in Latin America.” — Angela N. Castañeda, The Latin Americanist

“Stephen’s new edition of Zapotec Women shows an extremely important and heretofore unseen, aspect of the Zapotec’s story. . . . Zapotec Women is an analytical study based on extensive fieldwork. . . . [A] valuable resource to those interested in indigenous people, heritage, and the impacts of tourism.” — Rajinder S. Jutla, Tourism Geographies

“While the work is listed as a second edition, revised and updated, it has so many significant changes that it could be considered as an entirely new work. The author presents an effective, nuanced analysis that should be refreshing to anyone who enjoys really exploring the reality and identity of women in another culture at the beginning of the twenty-first century.” — Peaceful Societies

“After it first appeared, Zapotec Women quickly became a must-read in the fields of gender and Latin American studies, and today it can fairly be regarded as a classic. This thoroughly revised edition is a tour de force. Not content merely to add a few pages at the beginning or end of chapters, Lynn Stephen has rethought several key conceptual frameworks and reconsidered the changes experienced in Teotitlán del Valle over the past twenty years.” — Matthew C. Gutmann, editor of Changing Men and Masculinities in Latin America

“How wonderful that this second edition of Zapotec Women is available! So well written and blessedly lacking in jargon, it comprehensively explains the evolution of women’s cooperatives in Teotitlán, including their interactions with the Mexican state and NGOs, and the effects of transnational forces like NAFTA and increased migration to the United States.” — Jean Jackson, coeditor of Indigenous Movements, Self-Representation, and the State in Latin America

“In Zapotec Women, Lynn Stephen presents a complex analysis of stereotypically strong women. She situates women’s independence, forged in daily life, in Zapotec tradition that is framed by state-sponsored images of ‘Mexican Indians’ and market transformations that have regional, national, and international dimensions. Stephen’s compelling analysis illuminates class, ethnic, and gender relations that are unexpected and contingent. She renders these social processes beautifully, leaving the reader with an appreciation of individual lives in the context of global transformation.” — Patricia Zavella, coeditor of Chicana Feminisms: A Critical Reader

“This book is a light in the darkness. The author is a brilliant weaver who, with great expertise, intertwines the fine threads of gender, class, ethnicity, nationality, age, and art, rendering a magnificent tapestry. A rigorous anthropology of Zapotec women in a socio-historical context, the work also surprises by contemplating the aesthetic component of the sarapes created by the artisans of Teotitlán del Valle, Oaxaca.” — Eli Bartra, editor of Crafting Gender: Women and Folk Art in Latin America and the Caribbean


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Price: $29.95

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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Lynn Stephen is Distinguished Professor of Anthropology at the University of Oregon. She is the author of several books, including Zapata Lives! Histories and Cultural Politics in Southern Mexico; Women and Social Movements in Latin America: Power from Below; and Hear My Testimony: María Teresa Tula, Human Rights Activist of El Salvador.

Table of Contents Back to Top
List of Maps, Illustrations, and Tables ix

Acknowledgments xiii

Introduction 1

1. Ethnicity and Class in the Changing Lives of Zapotec Women 15

2. Kinship, Gender, and Economic Globalization 46

3. Six Women’s Stories:Julia, Cristina, Angela, Alicia, Imelda, and Isabel 63

4. Setting the Scene: The Zapotecs of Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca 92

5. Contested Histories: Women, Men, and the Relations of Production in Teotitlan, 1920—1950s 122

6. Weaving as Heritage: Folk Art, Aesthetics, and the Commercialization of Zapotec Textiles 152

7. From Contract to Co-op: Gender, Commercialization, and Neoliberalism in Teotitlan 200

8. Changes in the Civil-Religious Hierarchy and Their Impact on Women 231

9: Fiesta. The Gendered Dynamics of Ritual Participation 250

10. Challenging Political Culture:Women’s Changing Political Participation in Teotitlan 282

After Words: On Speaking and Being Heard 324

Notes 333

Glossary of Spanish and Zapotec Terms 339

Bibliography 343

Index 371
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-3641-9 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-3603-7
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