Claiming Territory and Asserting Indigeneity: The Urbanization of Nature, its History and Politics in Northwestern México
AdvisorSheridan, Thomas E.
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractThe 21st century has been designated the Urban Century given that over fifty percent of the world's population is reported to be living in cities. Indigenous populations are not alien to this demographic trend. In Mexico, an underestimated 35 percent of the indigenous population lives in cities. Over the last decade, the global demographic transition towards urbanization coupled with city-based indigenous activism has drawn scholars to systematically study indigenous urban experiences as forms of cultural resilience and innovation. Yet, little attention has been paid to the intersection between indigenous populations and the political ecology of urbanization as a dynamic process. This dissertation contributes to a better understanding of the intersection between indigeneity and urbanization by taking a political ecology approach to study the relationship between the Yaqui people and the city of Hermosillo in Sonora, Mexico. The Yaqui people--Yoemem--locate their ancestral homeland along the Yaqui River, about 220 kilometers south of Hermosillo. In the last century, however, they established diasporic communities across the Greater Southwest, including in Hermosillo. This dissertation specifically addresses three overarching questions. First, it asks how urbanization plays a role within indigenous Yaqui struggles over resource governance in a context where people have little political and economic power. Second, it asks how indigenous communities have adapted the cultural practices of their ancestors to marginal urban environments and specifically how they deal with the environmental and legal challenges imposed by the process of urbanization. Finally, it asks how analytical attention to urban indigenous struggles and indigenous accounts of those struggles present a more nuanced history of the urbanization of nature. These research questions were addressed through a mixed-methods approach that integrated twelve months of ethnographic fieldwork, comparative analysis of museum collections, and review of legal materials and documentary sources associated with indigenous rights and urban development at the municipal, state, and national levels. At its core, this dissertation integrates two related but yet-to-be-engaged theoretical discussions: anthropological critiques of the myth of the noble savage who belongs to nature, and political ecology deconstruction of the myth of the modern city that exists outside nature. Research findings indicate that situated urban indigenous experiences constitute an extension of indigenous territories into new areas. In articulating their indigenous identities the Yaquis of Hermosillo incorporate the city into their indigenous homeland, and in turn transform the political ecology of the city.
Degree ProgramGraduate College