Old Colony and General Conference Mennonites in Chihuahua, Mexico: History, representations and women's everyday lives in health and illness
AuthorReinschmidt, Kerstin Muller
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractDuring the early 1920s, Old Colony Mennonites emigrated from Canada to Chihuahua, Mexico in order to continue their traditional ways of life in nearly isolated, agricultural communities. As their ancestors had done for centuries, they continued to live in opposition to "the world." While the Old Colony Mennonites basically succeeded in living their distinct, conservative ideology, economic necessities and real world opportunities caused internal disagreements, excommunications and the formation of a new, liberal church, the General Conference, among their midst. North American Mennonite and some European scholars have recorded the history, political economy, socio-religious organization, linguistic and cultural characteristics of these so-called "Mexican Mennonites." What their large-scale perspectives have failed to capture is the everyday lives of the cultural group, the lives of women in particular. Women's worlds have been invisible in the official discourse on Mennonite history, most of which is male-dominated. This dissertation explores the everyday lives of Mennonites in the colonies near Cuauhtemoc, Chihuahua through Mennonite women's eyes. Women's multiple roles at the household level in times of health and illness, and women's moral identities are its focus. Women's habitus and discourses are central in perpetuating Mennonite gendered and moral identities. These identities, expressed in everyday moral living, are the foundation to Mennonite women's health work and local meanings of health. The ethnographic descriptions of women's lives demonstrate how ideology becomes operationalized, and the contrasting of existing literature with my findings exemplifies the articulation of ideology and gender. As an understanding of local Mennonite women's lives requires an appreciation of Mennonite history, socio-economic structure, and the values and norms reproduced by women during their everyday lives, this dissertation has a comprehensive, four-fold structure: Part I summarizes the history of the Mennonites near Cuauhtemoc and analyzes its representational politics; Part II lays out the anthropological processes of fieldwork and writing; Part III describes the contemporary everyday lives of Mennonite women with a focus on their gendered work, including health work, and socializing practice; Part IV discusses the socialization processes of Mennonite women, inherent challenges in Mennonite social structure, and the ways in which Mennonites cope with these challenges.
Degree ProgramGraduate College