Mastering the struggle : gender, actors and agrarian change in a Mexican ejido

D. Brunt

    Research output: Thesisinternal PhD, WU


    Actors and the Socio-Political and Symbolic Order

    In this thesis I have shown how women and men, all part of a small ejido in Western Mexico, are actively engaged in struggling to manage the social constraints and conditions they encounter. We have seen that coping with the process of agricultural change and the incorporation of the village and farm enterprise into the wider economic, political and institutional environment requires new skills and knowledge. Male and female farmers are differently engaged in this process: while men develop informal ways of dealing with representatives of the wider world, women tend to interact with them more formally. Furthermore, the actions and interactions of men and women influence the specific materializations and meanings that general processes, such as modernization of agriculture and incorporation, assume within the ejido, within the households and within the lives of different women and men. In this sense, men and women make their own history.

    However it is important to acknowledge that people are constrained in the choices they make. They are confronted with circumstances - material, ideological, legal as well as historical - that are beyond the scope of their influence and which exceed die particularities of the lives and the dreams of individual men and women. Normative frameworks, as organized sets of ideas often backed up by state legislation and sanctions; normative frameworks arising from shared experiences and social interaction at local level, backed up by social sanctions like gossiping, being defined as 'outsiders', etc.; and the process of uneven distribution of goods and resources, which is related to the practices of power, limit the choices social actors can make, and influence the strategies they can develop in creating room for manoeuvre. It is therefore important to localize social actors and their actions in terms of existing socio-political and symbolic frameworks.

    Anil Ramdas (1988), in his book The Struggle of the Dancers, uses the metaphor of a dance and its dancers to underline the tension between actors and the social order. The basic steps and the rhythm of the dance (i.e., in the context of my thesis, the socio-political and symbolic order) are defined, but the individual dancers (i.e. the social actors) have the possibility to interpret the dance according to their own character, former experiences, future expectations, and their relation to the other dancers, and thus slowly but surely to change the dance.

    As argued in the first chapter of this thesis, it is of little use seeking to depict a general picture of 'the' socio-political and symbolic order in Mexico, because of its fluid and non-hegemonic character. But it is relevant to describe and analyse those elements which, in specific time and place settings, enable or obstruct different social actors creating room for manoeuvre. These elements emerge from the various normative frameworks and the uneven distribution of goods and services that make up the socio-political and symbolic order. It is against this background that it becomes important to see how the relevant social actors manoeuvre, and to analyze the differences between them.

    Let me try to unravel here what in El Rancho the rhythm and the steps of the dance consist of, and what makes each dancer interpret the dance differently. 1 will concentrate first on the dance, i.e. the normative frameworks and the uneven distribution of goods and services, and next on the dancers, i.e. the social actors.

    Normative Frameworks and Uneven Distribution of Goods and Services

    Seen in historical perspective (see chapters 3 and 6), the changes brought by the process of incorporation into the wider economic and institutional environment result in a rather optimistic story as told by men, and a rather negative one from the standpoint of women. Through experience, male ejidatarios, generally regarded as heads of households by intervening parties, have been able to organize, individually and collectively, a counterforce against intervention practices that fail to take account of their specific interests. Men have generally been able to profit from new economic and social opportunities. The history of sugarcane production is a good example of this: while at the beginning of the seventies the refinery controlled the production process and set the rates of pay, nowadays the sugarcane producers, by means of two farmers' organizations (whose membership of course also includes female ejidatarias, though few hold positions of leadership), have been able to gain a degree of control over their own affairs. The success of these ejidatarios is, in large measure, due to the fact that ejido land tenure and socio-political organization have prevented a process of proletarization. Officially ejido land cannot be. sold, rented or mortgaged, though, in practice, many ways are found around these restrictions. In this particular ejido, a clear symbolic boundary was drawn between "insiders" and "outsiders", the former being ejidatarios and their sons, and the latter, women and vecinos from El Rancho itself, and those from outside El Rancho: money lenders, traders, representatives of government institutions, but also ejidatarios from neighbouring ejidos. The rules of the game differed profoundly for "insiders" as against "outsiders". Although in practice some ejidatarios lost their land, it was always to other "insiders". The socio-political organization of the ejido protected "insiders' from losing their land to outsiders, such as money lenders, notwithstanding periods of severe indebtedness and dependence. This has meant that the great majority of ejidatarios have survived to learn from their experiences with the outside world, which, because of economic and agricultural change, have become ever more important in village affairs, thus legitimizing the dominance of the world view as projected by male ejidatarios in village politics and farm household organization.

    Women (and here I am talking about the wives of ejidatarios) have faced a very different situation. They have not effectively been able to organize a counterforce against viricentric development practices that have ignored their interests, and in a very literal sense, they have been cut off from their original sources of income. In designing and building the new village, which brought men into contact as never before with the wider institutional environment, no account was taken, either by local government or by the ejidatarios themselves, of the economic importance of the solar for the continuity of the household and as a source of independence for women. In the new settlement, women could no longer keep small livestock, grow vegetables, pick fruits from their own trees, all of which gave them some income independent of their husbands. The loss of their solares and the further loss of control over produce, such as maize and beans, meant, with the changeover to commercial crops such as melon and sugarcane, a reduction of women's economic space and room for manoeuvre. They had some socially-recognized control over these crops when stored at home but none over the money paid to their husbands for the sale of commercial crops.

    It is precisely when outside involvement in ejidal and farm affairs increases that women's room for manoeuvre decreases. Previously both men and women used to work on the land but with agricultural modernization it was the men who gained the necessary knowledge and experience to find their way through the institutional environment m order to become commercial farmers, whilst women became marginal to the farm enterprise. Fruit and vegetable growing on a large-scale did offer women new opportunities in agriculture, but at the same time it brought many conflicts between men and women. The changes in the perception of a woman's position that export agriculture entailed caused women working on the melon fields to experience many problems, to such an extent that melon production in the end reinforced the ideology that women should stay at home. This became even more obvious when sugarcane came along. This is almost exclusively a "male crop", and nowadays women work rarely on die land anymore. Agricultural modernization has therefore led to men becoming defined as heads of household, and women as housewives, dependent on the income of their husbands, though in everyday life this ideal is contradicted by the necessity of many women to earn cash m petty trade and low-paid work at home. Moreover, it is precisely because of the changed definition of their primary function that women can be underpaid: their contribution is considered as an addition to the breadwinners salary, but actually vital for daily survival.

    These, then, are the long-term developments. Three normative frameworks seem to have influenced and guided specific developments in El Rancho. The first concerns the distinction between "insiders" and "outsiders". Those defined by the political core of the ejido as outsiders, must play a game with rules and regulations other than those defined as insiders. As we have seen, the division between insiders and outsiders does not coincide with the division between inhabitants of El Rancho and non- inhabitants: wives of ejidatarios, and men and women vecinos, all of them El Rancho inhabitants, are defined as outsiders and have little influence and few rights within the ejido. So too of course are the representatives of the state so perceived. They are not to be trusted and should be fleeced for as much as possible.

    The second normative framework relates to gender. According to mainstream gender ideology, women are trouble makers: the idea is that if they are not supervised by men, i.e. their fathers, husbands or brothers, they will get involved in affairs and be a disgrace to the family. They should stay at home, and if they have to leave their houses for domestic chores or work in the fields out of economic necessity, then they should do so only with permission, and preferably under the escort of male relatives. It is the men who should take care of the contacts with the world outside the household, and who should provide women with the necessities of life. Often of course, as we have seen in the thesis, practice is very different, and may lead to men using physical and mental violence against women, and to women mobilizing the solidarity and support of their children.

    The third normative framework revolves around verticalism and leverage. Among both men and women there exists the widespread belief that, in order to get things done, one needs the support of "influential friends% This belief is built upon previous experience and on an interpretation of how Mexican politics work. Although such political friends are not equally accessible to everybody - the dynamic of building up social networks and maintaining relations with influential men is influenced by both gender ideology and practices, and the symbolic boundaries between "insiders' and "outsiders" -, and although there are also many experiences of people being let down by their influential friends, verticalism and leverage continue to be very important in individual and collective strategies of men and women coping with the changing environment.

    These normative frameworks are accompanied by and influence the production and reproduction of an uneven distribution of goods and services in El Rancho. It is "male insiders" (i.e. male ejidatarios and their sons) who monopolize the front stage with regard to decision making, and who represent the village with regard to outside institutions. Hence it is them who have the best possibilities for constructing friendly ties with influential men, and for influencing public decision-making in accordance with their world views and interests. Ile monopolization of the front stage by "male insiders" has resulted, for example, in the fact that the opinions and the wishes of the women in the matter of the construction of the new village were never voiced or heard. As we have seen, this has had far reaching consequences for the everyday lives of women, and for the practical construction of gender relations. Another example concerns those defined as outsiders who stood no chance in the distribution of the new extension of the land which the ejido was expecting to be granted. However, it should be noted that over the years some fundamental changes have taken place, which have diminished the power of the political core of the ejido. First, the plots of the individual ejidatarios are nowadays well defined and hardly subject to discussion anymore, and second, since governmeat and other institutions have become so overwhelmingly present in the village, the political core cannot monopolize the contacts with the outside world anymore. It is mainly in general ejido or community affairs that they still are very important, but their influence on the development of individual farms or other enterprises is quite small.

    Thus far the dance: the normative frameworks and the unequal distribution of goods and services. I now turn to the dancers: the social actors.

    Social Actors Creating Room for Manoeuvre

    Against the above background, it becomes important to see how the social actors move. In the history chapter (6) we have already pointed to the existence of marked differences between how different men and women cope with the changing environment. These differences were explained by focussing attention on the life cycle, household composition, social networks, and the means of production. Other chapters explore further these differences by focussing on the experiences of different social actors attempting to achieve specific goals: men and women trying to get legal and actual access to land (chapters 3 and 4), a group of male farmers securing as much independence as they can in the management of their farms, notwithstanding the rules and regulations which the banks impose on them (chapter 7), and female farmers trying to assure themselves of male support in order to cope with daily farm management problems, without losing control over their land (chapter 8). These chapters reveal the actual dynamics in which the actors, men and women, are moving.

    From the different case studies of individuals and groups it becomes clear that in practice there exist a wide variety of ways of coping with the normative frameworks and the unequal distribution of goods and services. Let me now summarize briefly the salient points from the different chapters in order to analyse the similarities and differences that arise between the various categories of women and men.

    Comparing men and women in their struggles for land (chapters 3 and 4), we see several similarities. For men as well as for women, the whole issue of access to land is firmly embedded in vertical relations and leverage practices. When we look at the interactions between representatives of the ejido and the state (all men), we see that, in order to influence public decision-making, ejidatarios opt to rely on one or two people to find their way through the jungle of rules and regulations. And the same is true for individual ejidatarios, men and women, within the ejido: they rely heavily on friendship ties with Don Alfonso in order to influence decisions within the ejido to their advantage. On both levels this turns out to be a risky strategy: leverage in the state institutions in the end lets the ejido down, and when Don Alfonso dies, those who had invested time and money in their relationships with him are suddenly left with nothing. Moreover, in general it is risky to place your bets on vertical relationships, since this can undermine the horizontal solidarity and local organization which is necessary for building up sufficient pressure from below to ensure that the representatives of state institutions continue to work in one's favour on the case.

    Let us now turn to the differences. First, there exist marked differences in the strategies of insiders and outsiders. It is male outsiders - three vecinos and one man from a neighbouring village - who hope, by supporting Don Alfonso financially, to assure themselves of his political support. Those who live in El Rancho are not able to extract a receipt from Don Alfonso: they move on the edge of being outsiders and becoming insiders, and cannot risk loosing Don Alfonso's sympathy by showing a lack of trust. On the other hand, the man from the neighbouring village is without doubt an outsider, and thus is able to maintain a more formal relation with Don Alfonso: he obtains a written contract, signed by Alfonso. Later on this turns out to be his salvation: while the ejidatarios deny the claims of the vecinos , they have to respect the contract. The male insiders, the ejidatarios themselves, also develop strategies to assure themselves of Don Alfonso's political support. However they do not invest their own money. They allow Don Alfonso to use ejidal funds, never publically show their doubts, and are willing to participate in the occupation of the land. It is only when it becomes clear that Don Alfonso has a list of possible beneficiaries in his mind, that opposition is publically voiced and they begin to stop supporting Don Alfonso.

    Second, it turns out that women in general constitute a special category of outsiders, and female vecinas in particular. The latter see no possibility whatsoever in building up relations with Don Alfonso. Due to mainstream gender ideology and practices, and from the perspective of the male world, they are considered absolute outsiders. The symbolic boundaries drawn up by the influential men in the ejido, the viricentric practices of decision making, the threat of physical violence, and the lack of an accepted discourse upon which vecinas can establish the legitimacy of their wishes, are obstacles that are almost impossible to overcome. The only woman who is able to get her wishes heard and accepted is Doña Lupe, and she is an ejidataria and the widow of a respected member of the ejido, and consequently is able to draw upon different social identities which make her, figuratively speaking, "less female". But also in her case the social costs are high, especially vis-à-vis other women by whom she is judged not to be a decent women. This points to the existence of a "female discourse' which carries its own sanctions.

    The experiences of two other female ejidatarias, whose ejidal rights are questioned by male ejidatarios, also illustrate the importance of this division between insiders and outsiders and of building networks in the ejido. Moreover, their experiences underline the fact that, within the local arena of decision making, women's perspectives have little chance of being heard, and oven less of influencing decision-making. One of the two women is eventually able to have her claims taken seriously once she has managed to bypass the local arena through organizing political pressure from above. Until now, the other woman has not succeeded in doing so, and her claims continue to have little weight in the ejido.

    The chapters 7 and 8 focus on the ways in which nude and female farmers cope with the problems arising from managing a farm in the context of modem agriculture (i.e. one that is highly integrated into product and labour markets, and the institutional environment). Seen against the historical development of the village, in which men have become experienced in moving within the institutional and socio-political environment, while women are situated on the sideline of agriculture, it is not surprising that the story of male farmers is quite different from that of female farmers.

    Chapter 7 consists of an extended case study of a livestock credit group, of whom all but one are nude farmers. The development package offered by the Agrarian Bank does not meet the individual requirements of the livestockholders, and so, individually and collectively, they look for loopholes in the system. As we have shown, the ejidatarios turn out to be very successful: they are able to outwit the two Government institutions involved in the credit programme, and in this way to create room to adapt the implementation of the programme so that it takes into account the different realities and interests of the individual livestockholders. They are able to achieve this for two reasons. First, they have a wide variety of individual and collective experiences with this Bank in particular and with government institutions in general; and are therefore perfectly aware of the fact that, when working with Banrural, it is at the point of execution of the programme where they can most influence the course of events. Second, they share a similar image of the state. A whole range of concepts, jokes and commonly-shared anecdotes exist about state institutions and their representatives which express a general lack of confidence in them. For example, the Agrarian Bank, Banrural, is called Bandidal (a bunch of thieves); and influential representatives are named cabrones (he-goats, not to be trusted, but better to have them as friends). Then there are jokes against bank employees who, on the backs of the ejidatarios, are able to accumulate enough money to afford nice cars; and jokes about their former innocence, about successful and not so successful attempts of ejidatarios to claim their rights at the refinery or at the local department of the Ministry of Agriculture, and one could list many more. These experiences and the commonly shared notions on intervening organizations make the credit group strongly united in the face of the bank. At the same time, the recognition of differences amongst themselves makes the group very loosely structured at local level: everyone can do whatever he wishes with the credit. Obviously this is a satisfactory arrangement for the ejidatarios.

    The story of the female farmers offers a very different picture. It shows the problems women face when they become part of a viricentric arena, namely the world related to the management of their farms. The division of basic resources such as water, and, in the case of sugarcane, the planning for the harvest of the cane fields is influenced by informal, often viricentric, practices at the interface. In order to get the best out of these various resources and services one has to take part in these social dynamics. As we have seen, this is not easy for women. One way to solve the problem is to look for a man who will take over responsibility for the daily management of the farm; but if this causes difficulties (many experiences are known of men trying to get more then their share of the harvest), the ejidataria will do it herself. However, the constraints placed upon her social interaction with her labourers immediately point to the problems that arise when a woman is the boss of a man, in an activity which is regarded as a man's responsibility and in a social setting in which women are supposed to be subordinated to men (i.e. where there exists no class difference between the woman and man to justify her superiority over him). So, in this situation women normally prefer to work with their son - or sons - the only men over whom, in this social setting, they can exert some authority. Yet, notwithstanding the problems (which are not publicly discussed but individually solved), female ejidatarias do not abdicate the formal management of their farms to others: they stay in charge. Clearly they derive a lot of satisfaction from being not only wife, mother or daughter, but also ejidataria - which carries with it a more independent social identity and high status, and opens doors for them which otherwise would remain closed.

    Earlier I stressed that gender, life cycle, socio-political networks, household composition, and the unequal distribution of means of production are important for understanding the wide variety of ways of coping with the changing environment. To conclude, I want to draw attention to three salient points that arise from the foregoing summary, and which help us to deepen our understanding of heterogeneity, of the different ways of dancing. We must, first, acknowledge the importance of previous collective and individual experiences for shaping present attitudes and capacities. Second, there is some room for manoeuvre which is opened up by making strategic use of different social identities. And third, there is the existence of dominant discourses, upon which 1) local organisation becomes possible and effective, and 2) certain claims by particular social actors are able to influence local decision-making processes, while the claims of others are not even heard. It is hardly necessary anymore to strew further that the importance of thew three phenomena is especially visible when we compare the situations of women and men.

    Future Lines of Action and Research: Dominant Discourses, Social Identities, and Former Experiences

    What has become clear in the course of my research is the importance of previous experience, social identity, dominant discourses and the need to develop horizontal forms of organization for the process of distribution of crucial material and non-material resources, such as land, water, agricultural inputs, opportunities to earn an income, social and political networks, and the ability to get one's points of view heard in public arenas. When I now reflect on future lines of action and research that I would like to pursue, I would take these phenomena as a starting point with the objective of reflecting on them together with the social actors who have now been 'investigated'.

    This would, on the one hand, improve mine and their understanding of the dynamics involved, and on the other hand, it might perhaps offer local actors, men and women, some means and alternatives of action that would ensure that their individual and collective perspectives and interests are more fully taken into account.

    Notwithstanding the differences between them, on the whole I think that male ejidatarios indeed seem to have found ways of coping with the changing environment, and are able to defend their individual and collective interests, vis-à-vis the outside world as well as with regard to the gender-biased internal organization of farm enterprises, the household and village affairs. It should be noted that macro-economic developments have been favourable for the ejidatarios of El Rancho in the last few years: the prices paid by the government for sugar increased enormously from 1978 onwards, and the prices of meat and milk were also favourable. This facilitates their struggle with the outside world, and legitimizes the dominance of their view of the world in village politics and farm household organization. Ile weak spot is verticalism and the use of leverage which permeates individual and collective strategies. These mechanisms are fruitful under some conditions, but in other situations inhibit effective local organization which is necessary to influence public decision-nuking in their favour. This reliance on palancas and verticalism is rationalized by reference to previous experiences and by the use of a specific discourse on the practices of Mexican decision-making. This, then, is one reason why my attention is drawn towards analysing former experiences and dominant discourses. If ejidatarios wish to have more influence on public decision-making through developing diversified and effective strategies, they would have to break down and analyse these experiences and discourses.

    The second reason why I would like to develop further research along these lines concerns the experiences of women - wives of ejidatarios and vecinos as well as female ejidatarias - in El Rancho. As I see it, they have not been very effective in defending their individual and collective interests vis-à- vis those of men. With the kinds of change documented in this thesis, they have lost part of their economic and social room for manoeuvre. This has to be understood in the light of the dominant discourse on gender. "Good women" are considered to be obedient wives and responsible mothers. Women are responsible for the internal organisation of the household and the bringing up of the children. Men are supposed to provide women with the necessary means for carrying out these responsibilities. Practice often differs profoundly from this ideology, as the case of El Rancho shows, but nevertheless these ideas are used to legitimize arguments concerning rights and obligations of men and women in the arena of public decision-making. When women have other social identities - such as ejidataria, or farmer - which makes them, symbolically speaking, "less female", they are able, with effort, to open doors which otherwise would be closed to them. Furthermore the gender division of labour and responsibilities, which has become more rigid over the years, and the public/private dichotomy, make it more difficult for women to obtain practical experience and knowledge of the dynamics of public desicion-making. In this way, gender ideology and social identities influence the legitimation of public claims and the acquisition of practical experiences by women.

    The latter raises two further, interrelated questions. How can dominant discourses be influenced in order to arrive at a more realistic appreciation of gender practices, especially concerning the importance of labour and income of women for the continuity of the household? And how can women acquire social identities which enable them to move in arenas which presently are hardly accessible to them?

    With regard to the first question, it is important to note that among women there do exist alternative "visions of power" (Schrijvers 1985:221) or "counterpoints" (Wertheim 1964:23-37). In addition to the wide variety of jokes and anecdotes which women tell about men in ridicule of their supposed superiority and manliness, there also exist games and ceremonies in which women have a chance to voice their views on gender relations. An example of this are the women's parties despedidas de soltera ('farewell to the unmarried state') organized shortly before a girl marries. Let me give a short account of one such party.

    A women's party: a joke on the yoke
    (from fieldnotes, October 1987)

    "Tomorrow will be the despedida de soltera of Mona. Her friends invited me to join the party. I asked what a despedida de soltera consisted of, They explained that it is a small party organized by women to celebrate the coming wedding of one of their friends. In this case, Mona. They would give presents, perform some play acts, tell jokes, and have supper together. I said that I would love to join them, and moreover that I would like to participate in the play acts. Of course I could. It was not necessary to rehearse the sketch, since everybody knew it already. I wonder what kind of play it will be! They expect me the following day at five o'clock."

    "At half past four I arrived. The house was full of girls and women. The only mates present were under four years old. The room was nicely decorated and everybody was exited. Mona had not yet arrived. Some young women were dressing up for the play act. I joined them and asked them what part I could play. They looked around, thought a little while, and then told me that I could be the mother of the bridegroom. They explained that my role was quite easy. The play act was a skit on the wedding ceremony. The bride and groom go to church for the ceremony. The priest marries them and then just before the ceremony is concluded a woman, far advanced in pregnancy, enters the church, claiming that the groom is the father of the baby to be. I simply had to accompany the bridal couple.

    I changed clothes. Using pillows I filled out my bosom, belly and buttocks. I painted my face, and sat down to enjoy the jokes and the anticipatory pleasure. At the moment Mona entered the room, the drama started. My role was indeed an easy one, although they had forgotten to tell me some rather important details of the scene: my beloved son turns out to be not only adulterous but also a drunk, and he has a giant penis (a banana) hanging out of his pants. The church ceremony is used by the priest to explain and show my future daughter-in- law the way in which the banana should be used. Of course my son is very willing to cooperate, and in this part the play reaches its hilarious culmination, since the over ripe banana doesn't survive the ceremony and breaks into two pieces. At that moment the pregnant woman enters the scene and the play ends up in complete chaos, with fighting, laughing and people dancing.

    The atmosphere is set and the party continues. Food and drinks are served and many jokes are told to make clear what Mona can expect of married life: many pregnancies, problems over other women, fights over money, jealousy, violence, and drunkenness. In some jokes women are presented as being very clever and skilful in their manipulation of their husbands; in other jokes women are pictured as victims. However it does not seem to matter how women are portrayed: every joke provokes exuberant laughter from all the women present.

    Finally, it is dark, and although the women are still joking and laughing, some of them start to clean up the mess. To my surprise within only a quarter of an hour the party has come to an end and the atmosphere has changed completely. Several young men drop in to pick up their girlfriends. The couples are formed, the interaction between the women is reduced to close to zero, and the lady of the house, like the other married women who have hurried home, is in a rush to prepare supper for her husband and sons. Then I realize that the party nowise has interrupted the normal daily routines between men and women: when the party started, the work in the house was already done. And the party finishes early so that the married women are on time to prepare supper for their spouses, and the unmarried women are m time for their dates with their boyfriends. Somewhat puzzled 1 go home. While the whole party was meant to make jokes on gender, the party obviously did not influence the gender practices of everyday life. It did not even disrupt the rhythm of that day. Even on this day the women complied with what was expected of them."

    The foregoing account points to the existence of alternative visions or counterpoints to the dominant gender ideology. However, at the same time, it underlines that although women can make explicit their critique of dominant discourses (here through a drama and a "vision of female power"), such an alternative discourse is unlikely to alter everyday practices. Moreover, as I argued, they have no weight in public arenas which are mainly dominated by men. The problem then is not the non- existence of signs of resistance, but the degree of legitimation of them in the process of decision- making and distribution of scarce resources. This contrasts with the high degree of public consensus which discourses on government institutions receive. As I showed in chapter 7, such consensus facilitated the group of livestockholders from influencing the Agrarian Bank's credit programme so that the different realities and interests of the individual farmers were taken into account. This shows the force of a publically-legitimized discourse.

    The importance of the second question - How can women acquire social identities which enable them to move in arenas which are presently hardly accessible to them? - is sufficiently shown in the case material. Nevertheless, there are two points I would like to draw attention to. Focussing upon the issue of how different women have achieved social identities other than 'traditional' female ones, it becomes clear that identities have an ideological and a material bow. It is when women become owners of an ejidal right that they become "ejidatarias" and "sugarcane farmers". The second is that social identities are socially constructed; they change over time, and their everyday constitution may differ profoundly from their ideological constitution. The same counts for dominant and alternative discourses: both am socially constructed and receive their public legitimacy within the material reality of their institutional, economic and socio-political environment - in this case, El Rancho. This is why I argue for the continued study of the processes of distribution of vital material and non- material resources, and for an analysis which explores the interrelations between the material, ideological and socio-political aspects of everyday life. By taking the perspective of the least privileged and least powerful, we may reach a fuller understanding of how social actors, men and women, master the struggles of their differentiated social worlds.

    Original languageEnglish
    QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
    Awarding Institution
    • Long, N.E., Promotor
    • Schrijvers, J., Promotor, External person
    Award date8 May 1992
    Place of PublicationS.l.
    Publication statusPublished - 1992


    • agricultural society
    • agriculture
    • mexico
    • social structure
    • sex
    • gender


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