Author Archives: Tlali

A Twist on Marxism by Casey

Throughout the semester we have been exposed to various texts by Marx and his followers, such as Gramsci, Althusser, Fanon, and Said which heavily criticize or at least question the effects of capitalism and colonization. Yet, now we move a bit away from the criticism of capitalism to an understanding of its relevance in marketing iconic images of subversion, such as “El Che.” In his analysis of Che Guevara Casey reflects on the irony of what Che stood, which was an opposition to the predatory spread of capitalism, and the way that his image has now become part of its consumerist system.

The strength of Casey’s book centers on the symbolism and re-appropriation of the image of Che. Why do people use this icon or symbol by wearing the logos? I would argue that many people who consume Che do not really know who he is. I personally have experienced this when I asked people who wear this logo if they know who he is and most do not, nor what he stood for. I think what is important is to explore the appeal to Che. Casey does this by discussing the sexy image of a young virile Latino revolutionary man. This also reminded me of the way that Marcos (Zapatista subcommander) has become an icon through the media. Could it be for the same reasons?

I also thought it was interesting the way that Casey included alternative versions of Che’s image from the voice of the son of a man who was assassinated by Che. I thought this was interesting because I have actually read about Che and watched the various films about his life, and this idea of his murderous side has not been something I reflected on.

I think Casey’s book is very interesting and a nice conclusion to our analysis of Marxism and Cultural Studies in the sense that it makes the theory relevant to our (U.S.) society today. I found myself really enjoying this book. I think that what makes his book interesting is really the appeal that figures like Che have for us.

Judith Butler’s Lecture info.

As part of the upcoming conference “Becomings, Misplacements, Departures: Butler and Whitehead as Catalysts for Contemporary Thought,” organized by the Whitehead Reseach Project (see their website ), and partly supported by a grant from the Bradshaw fund of the Humanities Center of the School of Arts and Humanities, world-renowned philosopher and critic Judith Butler will hold a special session for SAH students.

This seminar will take place 2:00-4:30pm in Albrecht Auditorium on Thursday, December 3. Professor Butler will read some pages from her book Giving an Account of Oneself (Fordham, 2005), and then answer questions and engage in dialogue about the book and the issues it engages.

All currently enrolled students in Arts and Humanities are welcome to attend this seminar (and the conference, which begins after the seminar).

Stereotypes about Fans, Poachers, and Nomads

Henry Jenkins provides a nice mix of theoretical framework and popular culture in his book Textual Poachers. In the introduction he explains the way that his book “offers an ethnographic account of a particualr group of media fans, its social institutions and cultural practices, and its troubled relationship to the mass media and consumer capitalism” (p. 1).  Jenkins critiques the idea of maintaining an objective approach (etic) to ethnographic research and explains that there is subjectivity embedded in the so-called “objective” stance. Jenkins further argues that the distinction between the reader and the writer become blurred and the appropiation of the text gives it a different meaning or concept, a kind of ‘life’ of its own.

One of the aspects I liked most about this book is the way Jenkins weaves other theorists and their work in the study of his media culture. I think that one of his main strenghts lies in the way he cites other theorists and yet discusses a topic most of us can identify with, which grants it academic authority. I couldn’t help but wonder if a woman writer such as Radway would have been able to pull this off. I also thought some of the points Jenkins made regarding gender differences were overgeneralizations. Though I’m no expert on Fan subcultures, it seems odd to think that most fans are actually women and that the way that men and women read texts is very different. Though he acknowledges that these gender difference are not innate but social, his statement has some reductionism to it. He states that Bleich’s theories on child development and language acquisition reflect “the boy’s push for authonomy and the girl’s close identification with the mother and desire for affiliation, closeness, and community” (p.112). I do not want to dismiss these cultural or sociological factors of enculturation, but caution to avoid essentializing gender differences.

I really enjoyed reading about the functionality of gossip and the four major classes, being house-tlak, scandal, bitching, and chatting. I have always wondered why we enjoy gossip so much and the way it fulfill some sociological need for people.  Jones explains how “It is in terms of the details of the speakers’ lives and the lives of those around them that a perspective on the world is created” (p.80). Do we see major gender differences in the way we engage in gossip and its function? 

The part G.A.L. (Get A Life) made me reflect and feel sad about the lonelyness of some people who attempt to find a more rewarding alternative reality. Many of us at one point or another have made fun of the fans of Science Fiction shows and criticized their fanatic behavior towards fiction. I found reflecting on the way that we are all fans of one thing or another sometime in our lives. Jenkins states teh way that fans always know others who unlike them, are ‘really hardcore’ (p. 19).  What does it mean then to be really hardcore? What is hardcore to me, may not be to someone else. Particularly, we can always ‘blame’ someone else for being ‘worst’ than we are.  Overall this book has so many topics to discuss that I really found it very interesting. I’m looking forward to our discussion tomorrow.

Romance & Gender Roles

This book really caught my interest as I can remember some of my early reading memories, sneaking my grandmother’s Barbara Cartland’s book in the bathroom to read. It was forbidden for me as young girl to read these books as they contained “inappropriate” material, yet I would see the way my grandmother would devour them in one sitting.

In Reading the Romance Janice A. Radway applies the anthropological method of ethnographic research to attain a general (though not completely holistic) understanding of the complexity of reading romance books for women in the Midwest.  Radway conducts a series of interviews to provide a Geertzean approach to the study of the “native’s” point of view, and avoid speaking for the informant. Yet, I wonder if the limited scope of her ethnography can really grant her an understanding of this complexity (which I cannot know until I read the entire book). It seems as though her sample size is very small and relevant to just one region of the U.S., the community of Smithton. By this I don’t mean to discard her pooints, as the points raised in her book do apply to the various reasons the women in my family and I had for engaging in these readings. I felt that I could really relate to the “escape” of the monotony of housekeeping and childrearing duties as part of motherhood. I also understand the need for a romantic fantasy which is sometimes lost after being married for a long time (I’ve been married for sixteen years!).

This is a difficult topic to address in a general sense but Radway raises an important issue centering on “a recognition that romance writers and readers are themselves struggling with gender definitions and sexual politics on their own terms and that what they may need most from those of us struggling in other arenas is our support rather than our criticism or direction… Our segregation by class, occupation, and race, once again, works against us” (18).  Despite this book being written almost three decades ago, these issues of gender inequality and sexism still apply today.

The first chapter actually contained much statistcal data which seemed a bit irrelevant. It wasn’t until I got to chapter two that I felt drawn into the ethnography. I was interesting to learn about the women who participated in her research, particularly Dot. She seemed like a matriarch of her community. She seemed like a mixture of Gramsci’s organic intellectual and Carrie from Sex and the City, a critic of Romance literature who could extert consumerist power over a community of followers. One aspect I found interesting and a bit surprising was table 2.3 (74) where the responses were not what I would expect in regards to themes which should never be included in a romance. As I read it, I though rape would be the first one on my list, yet it was third. The first one was ‘Bed-hopping’ which I think was a reflection of religious beliefs and social values in the 80s from this community. The second one was actually a ‘Sad Ending’! I can’t believe that these women would prefer to read about rape over a sad ending. These statistics and the overall interviews are very important in understanding the values and attitudes of this community of women in the U.S. It would be interesting to conduct this research today and see how much things have or have not changed.

Distinction from “distinction”

Bourdieu has really opened my eyes to the study and interpretation of culture. Socially and educationally we are indoctrinated to accept a hierarchical system in which there is high vs. low culture. We internalize this hierarchy so much that we operate under a dichotomy which discriminates between what is good, elegant, tasteful, high class, against the bad, vulgar, distasteful, and low class. As much as a Post-modernist as I claim to be, it wasn’t until I read Bourdieu that I can appreciate the illusion of this classifying of culture.

Yet, this “illusion” creates very real social capital, educational capital and cultural capital which profit some at the expense of others, who also buy into the system and accept it as valid and logical. Bourdieu calls this the “game of culture”  he explains that “there is no way out of the game of culture, and one’s only chance of objectifying the true nature of the game is to objectify as fully as possible the very operations which one is obliged to use in order to achieve that objectification” (p.12).  However, the objectification is protected and prevented by the actors who benefit from the game of culture, by the system which perpetuates inequalities and controls political and social ideology.

Bourdieu’s book has become one of the core texts for the study of sociology. It is one of the few studies which combines a theoretical analysis of culture and society with ethnographic research (both qualitative and quantitative analysis).  He establishes two basic facts, the close relationship linking cultural practices to education capital and the social origin and its effects in social and educational capital (which I believe he refers to as “innate”).

I was very interested in his classification of capital as innate as it reminded me of a new subfield of biological anthropology known as evolutionary psychology. Evolutionary psychology argues that cultural traits (such as taste, intelligence, and even criminality) are genetically passed down within families, and that these can be identified in our genes. This field reminds me of many of the arguments raised by the Eugenics movement of Davenport in the early 1900s. Yet, Bourdieu I think links the innate to the ascribed position of the individual in the “game of culture” right?

One interesting aspect, though uncomfortable for scholars, is the way that the educational system legitimizes culture and this hierarchy, positioning the autodidact as illegitimate in the game of culture (p.24). This is similar to Gramsci’s concept of the organic intellectual and this questions the structure of power (unequal) in academia, where we lack diversity in positions of power. The question is how likely is this to change? Have we objectified this aspect in academia?

Everyday life=Culture?

I must admit that reading Michel de Certeau was as much of a challenge as an enlightening experience for me. The more I read, the more I wanted to understand and decipher all the layers of theory inbedded in his book. It could also be that I was reading the book on the plane as I flew across the continent to Orlando, and struggled to stay awake. I think this experience both enhanced and inhibited my understanding of “The Practice of Everyday Life.” I decided to post a comment to help me in pulling together all these ideas, which I will soon summarize for future use.

Michele de Certeau begins by positioning his book in a “continuoung investigation of the ways in which users- commonly assumed to be passive and guided by established rules- operate” (p.xi)  This would be what anthropology refers to as culture. Yet, my questions would be how attainable is this contextualization in humanity as a whole? or can we ever distinguish between the passive/subconscious ways in which people operate versus the purposely and dinamic choices people make.

 Michel de Certeau explains that he is mainly concerned with the thoeretical model of construction of individual sentences with an established vocabulary, a study of linguistics and its structural aspects which promise to enable a positivistic analysis of culture. If this type of analysis is possible, then can it be applied to other time and place? It’s interesting that he qoutes Chomsky’s theory of Universal Grammar, yet Chomsky himself has made revisions to it, trying to avoid a strict positivistic approach to it.

One aspect de Certeau discusses which I found very interesting is the study of la perruque. I think this is some what of a cultural universal. The way in which the worker feels the justified need to outsmart the boss, perhaps because of his/her position of subordination to the latter. I was thinking of examples from my life when I have done this, like when I worked at McDonalds and would give free food to customers and friends (though it’s embarrising to admit it now). de Certeau analysis of the motivation for la perruque reminds me of Marx’s theory of the bourgeousie and the proliterian relations. Particularly in his analysis of consumerism, when he states “the only freedom supposed to be left to the masses is that of grazing on the ration of simlacra the system distributes to each indiviudal. That is precisely the idea I oppose: such an image of consumers is unacceptable” (p.166). In this he is describing a condition we are faced with now. We have gone from being referred nationally as citizens to consumers, as our key role in the nation. It’s interesting to see how even after a major national disaster as 9/11, president Bush announcement encouraged people to shop. de Certeau would be sadden and disgusted to see the way our society is now.

Bibliography- EZLN & Marx

  Annotated Bibliography

  • Aviles, Jaime. Marcos y la insurreccion Zapatista, La “revolucion virtual” de un pueblo oprimido. Mexico, D.F.: Editorial Grijalbo, 1998.

                In this book, Jaime Aviles provides an overview of the importance the use of the internet has had to the EZLN movement. Aviles explains that one of the key weapons to the Zapatistas has been the ability to mobilize an international network of supporters of their cause. For many years, Aviles explains, the indigenous people of Mexico have suffered many kinds of human rights violations, including massacres, rapes, and other atrocities. All these years, indigenous people were taught to endure such violations under the idea of their biological and cultural inferiority. Anger, resentment and hate have inhabitated their hearts and souls, but feeling powerless to a dominant (ideological) majority of mestizos, they have kept their revolutionary urges suppressed. The arrival of various socialist activists from Mexico City, with their technological expertise and their understanding of the way the system worked, enabled indigenous Maya to appeal to a broader audience for help in fighting their cause of basic human survival.

                This book is written in Spanish and is only available in Mexico, yet it is a very valuable source of information to understand the “virtual revolution” which has been key to the success and protection of the Zapatistas movement. Aviles argues that without the support of a cyberg community, it is very likely that the EZLN would have been massacred by the Mexican military (under the direction of the U.S. government firms such as Chase Manhattan). Aviles also explains how Mexico has always had leftist tendencies and crushing the EZLN could ultimately lead to another civil war. He believes that having access to communication is key to the survival and spread of the Zapatista movement and ideology.  

  • Batalla, Guillermo Bonfil. Mexico Profundo, Reclaiming a Civilization. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1996.

                Guillermo Bonfil Batalla’s book provides a missing aspect of Mexican history, the story of its indigenous people, what he calls “una civilizacion negada” (a denied/unvalidated civilization). This illustrates the negation of a civilization which continues to exist despite the genocidal approach towards its destruction. Bonfil Batalla explains that Mexico is not a mestizo country, but rather a country whose majority continues to be rooted in Mesoamerican civilization as the culture and values reflect those practiced by its ancestors for thousands of years. Mexico Profundo includes those who speak an indigenous language, and who are living in extreme poverty today in the various states of the Mexican republic. He states that “their way of life has endured as they have resisted outside forces, appropriated and adopted as their own useful items from outside, and in turn created new and original elements of Mesoamerican civilization” ( Bonfil Batalla was a distinguished Mexican anthropologist and served as director of the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) until his tragic death in a car accident in July 1991.

                Bonfil Batalla’s Mexico Profundo erupted into the national consciousness in 1994 during the EZLN uprising in Mexico. The strength of Mexico Profundo is most evident in the power and public support of the Zapatista uprising, as well as other forms of civil disobedience present all throughout Mexico.  Bonfil Batalla has written extensively on the importance of understanding the indigenous culture and heritage of Mexican people, therefore his book is key to the understanding of the political struggle within Mexican culture.

  • Chomsky, Noam. Hegemony or survival, American quest for global dominance. New York: Metropolitan Books, 2003.

                Hegemony or survival is a fascinating analysis of the imperialism of the U.S. today and the fast spread of unregulated capitalism through the hegemonic practices of the elite that run the world. Chomsky warns us of the eminent threat that hegemony poses to our survival today. He explains that there are basically two major world powers which hold the fate of humanity, one is the U.S. militaristic imperialism, and the other is public opinion. Chomsky provides a lenghty and well-supported/factual overview of the hegemonic practices of the U.S. during the 21st century all around the world. Furthermore, he explores the way that the U.S. has manipulated the goverments of Latin America to protect its interest and keep people subjugated. Wilsonian theories have promoted a paternalistic view of the indigenous people of the Americas which justify and even promote colonization for the development and civilization of the natives in Latin America.

                This book provides a factual based context for the resistance of indigenous Maya people through the Zapatista movement. Chomsky discusses what the media in the U.S. omits to keep us ignorant of the real conditions of indigenous people and their context to maintain the power and privilege of the U.S. at the expense of the indigenous people and their land. Many conservatives have dismissed and even advocated attacks towards the Zapatistas claiming they are a threat to U.S. interests as they allegedly promote communism in Mexico. Chomsky’s book provides the evidence of the political exploitation and genocide which has been taking place among indigenous communities in Latin America. One such massacres took place in the town of Acteál in Chiapas Mexico, when 45 people, many children and pregnant women who were peacefully participating in a religious prayer and were killed by “unknown” paramilitary forces.

  • Coe, Michael. The Maya. New York: Thames and Hudson, 1999.

                Michael Coe is considered one of the leading experts in Mayan archaeology and ancient culture. He was one of the experts who cracked the Mayan code and has been able not only to decipher ancient Maya culture, but to connect it with modern day Maya indigenous people. Coe explains the cultural perseverance of the Maya as being the result of geographical isolation. The Maya were untouched by the Spaniards as they moved into undesirable territory in the jungles of Mexico and Guatemala. Later, the Mestizo population left them alone as they were considered inferior and backwards. However, after the North American Free Trade Agreement was signed, former Mexican President, Salinas de Gortari, decided to abolish the legislation which granted ownership of land to those campesinos who worked it. This also opened the door for corporations to move in and use the land previously inhabited by Maya indigenous people for crop farming. The Maya would then serve as a source of cheap labor. Coe argues that this has exposed indigenous Maya to western culture, diseases, and exploitation for which the Maya are not able to survive.

In his book, Michael Coe refers to them as the enduring Maya and wonders how a culture which has lasted for thousands of years will respond to the pressures of globalization and hegemony of the west. Coe’s work inspired me to research this fascinating culture which I had been taught was long dead. Many people visit the Mayan ruins in Mexico and are told that the ancient Maya were a very advance civilization, yet fail to recognize the merits of their descendants who carry a wealth of knowlegde about their ancestors and the environment they live in today.

  • Collier, George. Basta! Land and the Zapatista Rebellion in Chiapas. New York: Food First Books, 1999.

                George Collier’s book Basta! provides an in-depth study of Chiapas, Mexico. He explains the legacy of conquest and moves through a historical analysis of the revolution and its agrarian reform.  He then focuses on Eastern Chiapas and the building of social movements in this region, both economic and religious responses to the oppression facing indigenous people. In the second part of the book he explores the economic aspects, including the oil and agriculture crisis, energy development, and political issues of controlling resources, production, and labor in Chiapas. He concludes the book with an overview of what he calls “the New Indigenous movement” or new Zapatistmo and the effects of global networking and Neoliberalism in Mexico.

                This book takes a more general view at the complex aspect surrounding the Zapatista movement. Collier has a Ph.D. in Social Anthropology from Harvard and is professor emeritus from Stanford University where his focus was in agrarian politics and agrarian change in Chiapas, Mexico in the 1960s. Chomsky states that “Collier’s inquire into the roots of the Zapatista rebellion lucidly reveals their depth and intricacy…illuminating fundamental and ominous tendencies in the global socioeconomic order” Collier’s book is a must in any academic understanding of the situation in Chiapas pertaining to the EZLN.

  • MARCOS, Subcomandante. «Our Word is Our Weapon.» Our Word is Our Weapon. De Seven Stories Press. New York, 2002.

This CD contains the readings of many essays and poems written by Subcomandante Marcos. In these texts, Marcos explains who the Zapatistas are and what they are fighting for. He references the conditions of indigenous people through Mexico’s history. Marcos’s poetry appeals to the well-being of humanity as a whole, by promoting the protection of the earth’s resources and the respect and preservation of indigenous people in the world.

                I like this CD because it includes the emic perspective of the voice of the Zapatistas, subcommander Marcos. In it, he expresses the values and the demands the Zapatistas make for their struggle to end. I think it is interesting that their demands include what some may consider basic human rights, such as land, freedom and respect for their autonomy. I love his poetic voice and his elegant use of language though when he translates it to English, I feel it loses some of its charisma and power. Marcos thick accent makes it a bit hard to understand what he is saying.

  • Marx, Karl. A contribution to the critique of political economy. Chicago: Charles H. Kerr & Company, 1911.

In “A contribution to the critique of political economy” Marx explores the way that in a capitalist society (of free competition) inequalities become inevitable. Most complex societies have more social stratification, tribes and chiefdoms tend to be more egalitarian. After the industrial revolution, and with the birth of capitalism, 100,000 years of human evolutionary history was erased. The industrial revolution came to be seen as the emergency of “true humanity” and civilization and taken as the historical start point. Marx critiques the development of a capitalist system and its ideology justifying human inequality on the basis of a meritocracy. Marx also explains how the idea of land ownership gives rise to major, inevitable inequalities, and a system based on the exploitation of those who don’t own land, by those who monopolize land ownership.

Marx theory resonates with the Maya ideology which forms the basis of Zapatista culture. The Zapatistas advocate for equality and the idea that land belongs to those who work it (agrarian reform). Just like Marx, the Zapatista fight against the unregulated spread of capitalism, and believe that human equality should be granted to all individuals. I think that Marx’s theories are very much aligned with the demands of the Zapatistas and provide a great framework for understanding an alternative to the ideology which dominates the West and Neoliberalistic practices today. I plan to review more of Marx’s work to compare and contrast with the Zapatista as a counterculture.

—. Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844 and the Communist Manifesto. New York: Prometheus Books, 1988.

—. The German Ideology. Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1964.


  • Ramirez, Gloria Muñoz. The Fire and the Word; A hisotry of the Zapatista Movement. San Francisco: City Lights Books, 2008.

                In this fascinating book, Gloria Munoz Ramirez provides a rich overview of the history as well as the poetic symbolism of the EZLN. Gloria was born in Mexico City and worked as a journalist for many newspapers during the EZLN uprising, including Punto, German news agency DPA, and La Opinion (a U.S. based newspaper. In 1997 she left her family and work to live with the Zapatista communities for seven years, which gave her an insider perspective of the EZLN culture. She currently works for La Jornada a Zapatista sympathizing newspaper in Mexico and also writes for the magazine Rebeldia.

                This book provides a general story of the Zapatista movement, from the moment it came out publicly in 1994, to its international impact which continues as of today. Gloria provides rich emic perspectives by incorporating interviews of indigenous Maya who struggle to survive on a daily basis. The story is composed of what Subcomandante Marcos calls “the little pieces of mirrors and crystals that make up the various moments of the Zapatistas, years of open struggle, the reflections of a history that is still being made, one which continues to inform and inspire activists and intellectuals around the globe.” This book will be a great source of information as it provides a rich insider view of the actual Zapatistas, as well as a more up-to-date analysis of the movement and its effects worldwide.

  • Ross, John. Rebellion from the roots, Indian Uprising in Chiapa. Tennessee: Common Courage Press, 1995.

One of my favorite parts of the book is the first chapter titled: “?Feliz Año Nuevo, Cabrones!” This is in reference to the EZLN uprising in January 1994. John Ross is a journalist who has been reporting on the popular struggle in Mexico and Latin America for over two decades. He is considered a poet and an activist. His extensive experience and knowledge of the media and representations of liberation movements make this book a compelling read for understanding the impact of the media to the Zapatista movement.  Ross explores questions like, what does the EZLN uprising mean for the U.S.? Who really killed presidential candidate Luis Donaldo Colosion? Who is Marcos? Will Mexico have freedom or a free market? Do elections represent a step toward democracy or the promise of further strife?

                This book provides a different view on the Zapatista movement , one which includes the perspective of the media. Ross has extensive experience writing for Mexican newspapers as well as U.S. journals, including the Nation, the Village Voice and the San Francisco Bay Guardian. I think this book provides a general overview of the perception of the Zapatistas around Mexico and in the U.S. with a bit of Mexican “picardia” or cultural twist. Rebellion from the Roots was the American Book Award Winner in 1995.

  • Said, Edward. Culture and Imperialism. New York: Vintage Books, 1993.

                In this book Edward Said explores the various aspects that lead to the imperialistc power of the West over the colonized continents. He explores the effects of the production of an ideology that was based on the power to narrate and reconstruct history and culture in order to promote the superiority of the colonizer. Such ideology promotes the inferiority of some races and provides justification for their inferior condition. Said explores the roles of the novels of the 19th century to strenghten the ideology of the colonizer as superior and “cultured.” He describes the continous hegemonic spread of colonizers in the West who achieved (and in term of the U.S. continue to do so) their power through the exploitation of the natives. Said points out that by 1914 “Europe held a grand total of roughly 85% of the earth as colonoies, protectorates, dependencies, dominions, and commonwealths” (p.8). When such as small minority has control of such a vast majority of oppressed, the internalization of an ideology is key to its existance.

                Said’s work is very important to understanding the struggle and political dimensions that led to the uprising of indigenous people in Mexico and their dedication to the EZLN. Said explains the way that the annals of schools, missions, universities, scholarly societies, hospitals in Latin America established so-called modernizing trends, yet maintained the divide between the native and Westerner (p.223). Such divide however, was broken when University professors, in exile, joined the movement in 2001.


  • West, Cornel. «The New Cultural Politics of Difference.» Ferguson, Russell. Out There: Marginalization and Contemporary Cultures. New York: The MIT Press, 1990. 19-37.

Cornel West explores the “New Cultural Politics of Difference” in an essay. He states that “the new cultural politics of difference consists of creative response to the precise circumstances of our presen moment” The three bais changellend of the new cultural politics of difference include: intellectual, existential, and political. The intellectual challenge centers in the monopoly and homogenization of history, culture, and society. In this he cites Fanon and his theories on the decolonization of the Third World, as it marked the end of the Age of Europe, but the emergence of the USA as a world power. This historical analysis applies to Mexico, as it too was colonized and controlled by Spain, only to find itself “liberated” from Spanish control but exploited by what Fanon calls “the national bourgeoisie” and now the U.S.

                West’s second challenge is the existential challenge, which refers to the cultural capital to thrive independently of the nation or the status quo.  I believe that the EZL has the “high-quality skills require to engage in critical practices and the self-confidence, discipline and perseverance necessary for success without an undue reliance on the mainstream for approval and acceptance” (32). The mainstream approval refers to the conservative, capitalist mestizo Mexican population which has openly criticized the subversive aspect of the EZLN. Finally, West poses the question of whether or not a civilization that evolves more and more around market activity, buying and selling commodities, expand the scope of freedom and democracy. The EZLN has been critical of this unregulated abuse of resources, and the inequalities of a market system based on consumption.

Said’s Culture and Imperialism

As I try to digest the numerous readings we have each week, it is helpful to see how all these concepts interrelate as authors cite each other’s theories. Said makes references to Benedict Anderson’s “Imagined Communities” as he explores the importance of nationalism and ideology. Althusser also discusses the importance of ideology in the exploration of culture and nationalism. Said also quotes Fanon in order to illustrate the long lasting effect of European colonization of the developing world, Fanon states that the world was really two warring factions, where Europeans owned most resources (85% by 1914) while natives were the labor force that supported this system (p.196).

In “Subculture” Dick Hebdige further explores the importance of the ideology and culture to maintain the status quo discussed in Said’s book.

Said explores three great topics which emerge in decolonizing cultural resistance; the firs is “the insistence on the right to see the community’s history whole, coherently, integrally. Restore the imprisoned nation to itself” (p.215). What Benedict Anderson also discussed as the creation of a nation-state, one that is homogeneous in its history, culture, language, and goals. This served to validate the ideology of those in power, while denying any alternative histories and even people who are ethnically/racially diverse. The second is the idea that “resistance, far from being merely a reaction to imperialism, is an alternative way of conceiving human history” (p.216) He also this “voyage in” and it refers to ability to include resistance as a normal aspect which was been part of societies’ histories. The third and final point is “a noticeable pull away from separatist nationalism toward a more integrative view of human community and human liberation” (p.216). Yet, Said also explains that “the history of all cultures is the history of cultural borrowings” which basically tells us that this pull away is not a new invention but a revised nationalism which is based on the interpretation and justification of the decolonized power elite or “national bourgeoisie.”

Overall, the concepts of culture, colonialism & imperialism, and hegemony are key to our understanding of societies and power struggles which continue to threaten human populations all around the world. In his book “Hegemony or Survival,” Noam Chomsky warns us of the imminent threat to the survival of our species b the hegemonic and imperialistic power of the U.S. today. Reading Chomsky’s book helped me understand how real all these concepts are.

Uprising: The Rumble in the Jungle by the EZLN

In a fast-paced, technologically dependent world, traditional foraging groups attempting to preserve their culture face more challenges than ever. All throughout the world, indigenous groups face many obstacles, including disease, hunger, discrimination, environmental degradation, being driven to marginal land, and more. Many are forced to move into cities and join a market economy which translates into loss of their culture and becoming enmeshed in a systemized poverty, dependent on wage labor, which rapidly becomes very competitive. As poverty increases, more people become desperate and are willing to work for lower wages and under worse conditions.

Faced with such problems some indigenous groups fight back. An excellent example of cultural perseverance of an ancient indigenous people is the Maya. The contemporary Maya are faced with the fast spread of capitalism, which heightens the pressure for survival. According to June Nash (2001:6), globalization often leads to the militarization of societies resisting capitalist markets. The capitalist goal of a global economy threatens the existence of subsistence economies as well as its own capitalist sector since it eliminates both nonrenewable resources and the basis for biodiversity alternatives. Dehumanizing conditions tend to lead to various movements of resistance, rebellion, and political activism (Nash 2001:1). In the Chiapas region, this is evident in the multiple opposition actions of the Maya indigenous groups, particularly the Zapatista National Liberation Army.

Despite centuries of cultural and knowledge preservation the Maya’s struggle to maintain their cultural system is more difficult than ever before. The main challenges to their preservation center in the overflowing influences of globalization present in ethnic tourism and major economic pressures to survive as cultures become part of a global economy. All of these changes resulted in many indigenous uprisings and revolutionary movements, including the most well known Zapatista movement or EZLN. Applied anthropologists and indigenous rights activists worldwide have been working closely with the EZLN seeking to stop the destruction of alternative worldview and the preservation of indigenous cultures with their immense wealth of knowledge.

I’m particularly interested in the application of Marxist theories to the socialist movement of the EZLN. Additionally, the issues of representation that surround this movement are fascinating to me. Who are the Zapatistas? Are they really indigenous Maya? Or are they the remnant of the socialist student protestors from the Tlateloco massacre of 1969? (A major student and teachers uprising resulting in the deaths of thousands in Mexico City). The answers to these questions vary depending who you ask. The average middle class Mexican would argue that the Zapatistas are a bunch of trouble makers in the South of Mexico. Leftist groups in the U.S. may claim that the Zapatistas represent the first postmodern revolution of the 21st century (N.Y. Times). Through the mysticism of the masks they wear, and their main voice of MARCOS, the Zapatistas have raised much awareness from an international community. Perhaps they represent hope for a humanity struggling to survive in an ever spreading capitalist model. Through this project I hope to explore all the various aspects and facets of their representation. Many of theories about imperialism and civil disobedience apply to the Zapatistas. Through an exploration of Marx’s theories on capitalism, I will attempt to explore the way that its predatory spread along has resulted in the immense inequalities of indigenous people of Chiapas, Mexico. I will also include key concepts from Edward Said’s work on imperialism and Fanon’s theories on the exploitation of the “wretched of the world.” Additionally, Gramsci’s on hegemony and the idea of the “organic intellectual” really apply to a holistic understanding of the Maya as key sources of knowledge for humanity today.

An alternative history

Franon provides a fascinating overview of the history of those oppressed by colonialism. Fanon’s personal experiences as a psychiatrist during the Algerian war enables him to tell the story of the horror experienced by those who were victimized and tortured. I found his chapter on Colonial War and Mental Disorders as the most compelling of the entire book. I wished he would have started the book with this chapter to set the stage for the various key points he addresses throughout the book. I think it’s very effective to hear the stories of real people and the effects of the violence of colonialism to appreciate its destructiveness.

Fanon’s book reminded me of the story of Che Guevara in the Cuban revolution. I recently watched a film with Benicio del Toro on the life of el Che during the Cuban revolution and I was reminded of the “wretched” Cubans that struggled to achieved their independence. Perhaps one of the strenghts of Fanon’s book is the way that it can apply to just about any colonized group in the world. From the jungles in Cuba, or those in the D.R.C. or to the deserts in northern Mexico or the Northern parts of Africa.

Yet one of the aspects of Fanon’s book is the creation of “whiteness” by the colonizers which forced an internalized form of racism on their subjects. The way that ascribing an innate inferiority to the colonized is key to keep them subjugated and control. To really understand colonialism, and the act of decolonizing, we must conceptualize its complexity. Fanon states that “decolonization is always a violent event” yet this violence is not just a physical violence but a psychological one as well, the latter leaving more permanent and sometimes irreversible damage.

Sadly, colonization has not stopped its horrific process, as we sit here an ponder on the history of those poor Algerians, we may forget our colonization of Iraq and Afghanistan. As Fanon states, “the United States of America has become a monster where the flaws, sickness, and inhumanity of Europe have reached frightening proportions.” However, during the time he wrote this book (1961) we had not started colonizing Asia nor the Middle East. What kind of a monster have we become? and how is history going to describe us as Americans who stand by and watch as the exploitation of some for the benefits of other continues.

Fanon invites us to “… make a new start, develop a new way of thinking, and endeavor to create a new man.” Yet, we have a long way to go if this dream is ever going to be fulfilled. As an optimist I hope it will.