The family seen from CIESAS

Reception: November 23, 2020

Acceptance: December 16, 2020

The domestic warp. Texts about the family

Lucía Bazán Levy, Margarita Estrada Iguíniz and Georgina Rojas García (coords.), 2019 CIESAS, Mexico Collection, Mexico, 276 pp.

This collective book is part of the Mexico Collection, a scientific dissemination project that seeks to broaden the spectrum of readers of academic publications and, at the same time, review the research, themes and central debates of the disciplines that have been practiced in ciesas. It was coordinated by three renowned researchers, Lucía Bazán, Margarita Estrada and Georgina Rojas, who for years have developed studies on the family at this institution. Lucía Bazán and Margarita Estrada are anthropologists and Georgina Rojas is a sociologist, and for this editorial project they called on historians and anthropologists who have carried out research on the subject.

The domestic warp It is made up of the Introduction and eight chapters organized into two large blocks. A first part, made up of three chapters, is dedicated to reviewing studies about the family from anthropology, sociodemography and history. And a second part is made up of five chapters, all of an anthropological nature.

In the Introduction, the coordinators clarify and delimit the objectives of the book that are shared by the authors: it is a selective review of central issues around the family and its role in social organization, which assumes the diversity and historicity of both from the perspective of anthropology, but in dialogue with other disciplines and other methodological proposals. The most shared argument is that the family has been, before and now, a mediating instance between the individual, the community and social forces. But apart from that, the authors had ample freedom to raise issues, levels and research methods.

That freedom makes the book can be read differently. On the one hand, there are the chapters that make a review, that is, they are a kind of “review”–Type of publication that is very useful and used in Anglo-Saxon research, but unusual in Mexico– of the literature, in this case, about the family and some central themes, and others where the authors raise the perspectives and ethnographies of their own investigations.

From that point of view, the readers of The domestic warp you will find four review chapters. The first, which is chapter 1, by Margarita Estrada and Georgina Rojas, offers an interdisciplinary review about the family as an object of study from anthropology in dialogue with sociodemography. Although both disciplines have shared an interest in knowing and discussing the relationship between both disciplines, their findings and proposals have for a long time gone through parallel channels and less dialogue than would have been desirable. The interdisciplinary effort from demography has been present in the works of Brígida García, Orlandina de Oliveira and other colleagues from El Colegio de México and the unam. In fact, the 25th issue of the magazine Demographic and Urban Studies (January-April 1994) was dedicated to considering anthropology in sociodemographic research. It was, in the words of Susana Lerner, to incorporate, or at least recognize, the existence of cultural factors and subjective social constructions that affect the behavior of the population but are difficult to capture through quantitative methods, however refined they may be. For Lerner, it was about establishing links both in the field of discussions and methodologies: issues such as fertility and mortality, migration, sexuality and the role of women were enriched when the anthropological approach and its analyzes were incorporated. based on case studies or specific contexts.

The gaze of Margarita Estrada and Georgina Rojas is oriented, in this case, to review from anthropology the divergences and convergences with sociodemography. This is a very well done and particularly important exercise, since since the 1990s, at least, anthropology, particularly the ethnographies of all kinds that we carry out today, has been enriched by the conceptual discussions and quantitative materials provided by demographics. Today, unlike our ancestors in the trade, we cannot avoid; on the contrary, we have to take into account the debates and statistical information produced by censuses and surveys on the spaces, populations and activities that we study. That is why the inclusion of this article is so convenient that it opens the debate and explicitly focuses on the findings and discussions about the population from anthropology.

Chapter 3, by América Molina del Villar, is also a review, in its case historiographical but with approaches to anthropology, on the classificatory systems that are part of the debates on the New-Hispanic family in the long colonial period. In truth, the beautiful and detailed caste paintings that sought to relate the racial origin of those who joined, with the resulting phenotype, were in real life an impossible mission. Mestizaje, as a distinctive mark of Spanish colonization, populated Latin America with an infinite universe of jumping back and forth. As Molina well warns, racial classifications, in addition to being uncertain, were always subject to interpretation and manipulation, which led to multiple transgressions of the classification systems. Some time ago, I heard the historian John Tutino, a specialist in the colonial registers of the Bajío, say that this was so because people, individuals and families, selected - not in all cases, of course, but in many cases - what caste or ethnic group to be assigned, according to the opportunities offered by the colonial system in different regions and at various junctures. In this sense, said Tutino, ethnic identity must be understood as a malleable and changing resource to take advantage, individually or collectively, of situations that, in a very dynamic way, were opened or canceled for the different ethnic groups and castes; which is something very close to what Molina raises in his chapter. A recent example mentioned in a newspaper article The country: In the United States, where racial origin is traced with a magnifying glass (“a drop of black blood is black”), a professor was expelled from the university where she worked because she had sustained her ascending career by taking advantage of the spaces offered to African-Americans, when she did not it was.

Lucía Bazán's chapter is also a review, in her case, of the relationship between family and work in anthropology. For the author, work is an axis that supports, configures and hierarchizes the organization and dynamics of homes and families. Bazán's work is the most explicit in recovering the important trajectory of ciesas in the investigation of the family-work binomial that meant the transition, intuitive but pioneering, from peasant studies to urban research in ciesas. But Bazán's review is broader and incorporates classic works on the subject that, at the time, enriched the research in Mexico. From the changes in the axis of work, Bazán establishes the differences between families, ranging from the peasant family, which was so predictable and where the arguments of Chayanov, Wolf and Warman resonated with which so much was studied until the decade of 1970; At the same time, the urban worker family was formed, based on industrial employment, which, with its limits and difficulties, managed to take advantage of the import substitution process to work and settle in the cities; from there to the much darker scenarios that began to be drawn with the maquiladora family and, frankly dark, with the unemployed and informal families. For Bazán, the impacts of male unemployment were faced differently by men and women and were reflected in changing uses of domestic spaces, work and community arrangements that have given rise to new configurations and tensions in the face of scenarios full of uncertainty.

For her part, Claudia Zamorano, takes up the discussions and contributions of anthropology, but also the strong connections with demography, sociology, geography and urbanism, around housing and the family since the end of the century xix until the beginning of the century xxi. Based on his own research and those of other scholars, he analyzes the family-residential space relationship –especially neighborhoods–, in a dialogical way, as a product and producer of the social practices of those who inhabit them, taking into account the impact of migrations, the role of peasants and social networks in the location, forms and mechanisms of settlement in different cities, especially of indigenous migrants; the role of women in the urban establishment processes, the changes and recreations of residential principles carried over from the rural world. Finally, it gives an account of the studies that focused on the impacts of the intense process of low-cost housing production in the hands of large private real estate companies; a process that separated families and dispersed populations in inhospitable peripheries that have promoted, according to the studies that he cites, geographic isolation, individualism and the nuclearization of the family. There will be much to investigate about this in the near future. The good thing is that Claudia Zamorano will be there to continue studying and telling us about the vicissitudes of families that were trapped in multiple difficulties in metropolitan spaces that are, today, the living spaces of more than half of the population in almost all the states of the Republic.

Readers of The domestic warp You will also find four other chapters where the authors review issues that correspond to their particular research agendas: survival, survival, help, ties and social networks, care, migration. They are chapters that allow readers to know or follow the intellectual trajectory of these researchers. The Peniche chapter presents his findings and reflections on the survival mechanisms of the Yucatan Mayans in colonial times, where he highlights the role of migration, an issue little explored in studies on the indigenous family of that time. González de la Rocha reviews his studies related to changes in the survival mechanisms of families that, with the current precariousness, have increased the social isolation of the poorest, making it difficult for them to be included in traditional support networks and solidarity. Hiroko Asakura and Susann Vallentin, for their part, present the results of their research on female migration, especially of mothers, to the United States, and of peasant families from Veracruz to Ciudad Juárez; female and family migrations that have modified the traditional rights and obligations in the homes and have introduced elements of uncertainty in the families in the places of origin and destination.

These chapters, despite their diversity, account for the great changes that have brought about in the architecture and hierarchy of patriarchal homes, three phenomena that have been illuminated in new ways since the gender perspective was incorporated into research: migration, internal and international; the incorporation of women into economic activities outside the home and the visibility (or the impossibility of continuing to make them invisible) their growing economic, labor, social and political participation in the homes, families, and communities of which they are part. Despite community and family resistance - which includes some academic views - these transformations have been lethal for the persistence of the traditional patriarchal family and have given rise to new, complex and changing family scenarios. And that is where we anthropologists, historians, demographers, from before and now, must be to document, understand and explain them.

But there are not only changes in the immense and changing world of our studied. The domestic warp it accounts for another refreshing twist: the authorship of every chapter in the book is by women. Researchers who have joined this collective book whose readers, especially the students to whom it is directed, will make multiple, diverse and useful readings.


Patricia arias He obtained a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in Social Anthropology from the Ibero-American University of Mexico City, and a doctorate (New Regime) in Geography and Land Management from the University of Toulouse-Le Mirail, France. He is a member of the sni, level iii. His recent books include Successful migrants. The social franchise as a business model (2017) (coordinator) and Transplanted religiosities. Religious recompositions in new transnational settings (with Renée de la Torre, coordinators) (2017). Recent articles: (2020) “From migration to mobility. Los Altos de Jalisco ”, in Social Interstices (2019), and “From the shawl to the scarf. The reinvention of indigenous clothing ”, in Encartes (2019).

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