Negotiating Capitalism, Community, and Gender: Power and Agency in Two Streams of Mexican Migration


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships




For more than twenty years, undocumented migrants to the United States have faced exclusion and exploitation. Yet some of these migrants demand inclusion in the US and feel they belong, while others withdraw. This dissertation, based on two years of bi-national ethnographic research, compares the cases of two Mexican villages, both of which experienced heavy migration to California between 1980 and 2000. It examines key junctures at which the two villages diverged, leading to different migration patterns, gender relationships, and strategies to build lives of dignity. While past research has highlighted macro-economic and household factors, this dissertation focuses on politics and state power. It argues that politics in sending and receiving sites, both ‘from above’ and ‘from below,’ shape migration, gender, and development. Thus it calls attention to the possibilities imagined and pursued by migrant communities themselves.