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Autodefensas and the construction of citizenship and state-society relations in Mexico

Citation: Curry, Alexander (2020) Autodefensas and the construction of citizenship and state-society relations in Mexico. Doctoral thesis, School of Advanced Study.

The autodefensas (self-defence groups) that emerged in the Mexican state of Michoacán in 2013 have sparked a great deal of societal, media, and academic interest both within Mexico and internationally. Whilst significant attention has been devoted to the causes, events, and personalities involved in the autodefensa movement, comparatively little attention has been paid to the long-term impact that such groups have had in the communities in which they emerged. This study seeks to redress this deficit by exploring the effect that the experience of such groups – both participation within them, and living under their influence – has had on ideas and practices of citizenship and state-society relations more generally. Focusing on the municipal level within Michoacán, the project utilised semi-structured interviews, participant observation, and attendance at community events and meetings, to gain insights into the social construction of citizenship in a locale where autodefensas had been semi-institutionalised. By employing such methods, it was possible to discern the way in which the experience of the autodefensa rising – and the participation of the community within this – had generated the renewal of inter-personal relations and ideas of community identity. In turn, and combined with the relative security provided by the autodefensas, this phenomenon allowed for the emergence of citizen participation projects led by the Church which have generated new political and social inter-subjectivities, most notably via citizen councils implicated in the co-production of governance in the municipality. It is argued that the experience and continued presence of autodefensas has helped to construct an emergent localised sovereignty underpinned by a form of localised citizenship, and predicated on ideas of (in)security and narratives of unity and local identity. Thus, autodefensas have been productive of a reconceptualization of citizenship and a broader re-negotiation of state-society relations at the local level. As such, whilst based on the experiences at the municipal level, the thesis makes important contributions to the literature on citizenship and state-society relations in contexts of pervasive insecurity, with the key findings having a wider application to both contemporary Mexico, and Latin America more generally.

Creators: Curry, Alexander and
Subjects: ?? LAS ??
Keywords: Autodefensas, citizenship, state-society relations, sovereignty
Divisions: Institute of Languages, Cultures & Societies
Collections: Dissertation
  • 20 April 2020 (accepted)


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