The Community in the Latin American Anthropological Debate

Receipt: February 6, 2023

Acceptance: May 4, 2023

Communities, utopias and futures. Debates for the 21st century

José Eduardo Zárate (ed.), 2022 El Colegio de Michoacán, Mexico, 442 pp.

Sixteen academics bring together their voices in a volume edited by José Eduardo Zárate Hernández, researcher at El Colegio de Michoacán (colmich). The book contains an unsigned introduction, dated August 31, 2021, which I assume was written by the book's editor. The texts that compose it are presented in four parts: in the first, "Peregrinajes y reasentamientos", Rogelio E. Ruiz Díaz writes; three more authors: Javier Serrano, Gastón Perri Sáenz and Fabricio Quispe, join their pens in a common text, and this section ends with a writing by Delázkar Rizo. The second part, entitled "Towards organization", includes texts by José Atahualpa Chávez Valencia, José Filadelfo Martínez Hernández, Octavio Augusto Montes Vega and Santiago Bastos Amigo. The third part, "En la ruta de la esperanza", displays the writings of Esteban Krotz, Alicia M. Barabas, Claudio Palma Mancilla and the editor himself, José Eduardo Zárate Hernández. The volume ends with a section entitled "Past Futures", which presents contributions by Carlos Alberto Casas Mendoza, Claudia Alejandra Pureco Sánchez and Nubia Cortés Márquez. A general bibliography, acronyms and abbreviations, as well as a toponymic index complete the volume.

If there is a common thread that unites the contributions of this book, it is the reflection on the search for a better world and the paths taken in different contexts to achieve it. This is announced in the "Introduction", which invokes dreams, desires and even fantasies as impulses for thinking about social change. I quote: "But imagining other possible worlds or social arrangements is also at the heart of utopias, and this is a constant action of subordinate groups, although their results may be very diverse, even contradictory" (p. 9). Of course, these texts are the result of a detailed reflection of those who wrote them, as expressed in the intense discussion when analyzing concepts such as utopia, community and future, which help to understand the current alternatives to eradicate the political economy of capitalism. Just the introduction addresses the link between the concepts referred to and thus provides the reader with basic information to understand the general context of the work. Thus, the four parts express different approaches to the link between utopia, community and future in diverse ethnographic contexts.

The reader should take this general orientation into account because this is the uniqueness of the work. It is also the exploration of this linkage between the aforementioned concepts that allows for a deeper understanding of the complexity of each of the cases presented in the book. An example of this is what Rogelio E. Ruiz writes about the Russian colony in Valle de Guadalupe, Baja California; or what Delázkar Rizo narrates about a couple of communities in Chiapas -one Zapatista and the other referred to international organizations-, articles that lead the reader to examine contexts of articulation of the utopian, the communal and the vision of the future in terms of a territorial mobilization that seeks how to rebuild life in common by suppressing the norms imposed by capitalism.

In another dimension, but seeking the same articulation of utopia, community and future, the authors of the second part of the book describe and discuss the vicissitudes of the struggle to recompose community organization. This is the case of Cherán, Michoacán, which has become an icon of current social struggles in Mexico, described and reflected upon by Atahualpa Chávez. Natural disasters and their consequences, as well as the efforts to rebuild life is what José Filadelfo Martínez examines in the case of Honduras. In an apparently distant case, in terms of what is discussed in the book, Octavio Montes exposes the experience of consumer cooperatives, one in Catalonia and the other in Mexico. What is fundamental is that both cooperatives -operating in different cultural and geographical contexts- are united by the environment of capitalist consumerism and the resistance of community configurations to take control of a market that, like the capitalist market, oscillates at the convenience of those who monopolize resources. This section ends with the writing of Santiago Bastos, who places us in a very old and at the same time contemporary struggle of which he has been a precise witness, as is the case of the community of Mezcala on the shores of Lake Chapala, Jalisco. The case of Mezcala is illustrative of the articulation of dimensions of ethnic variety with class inequalities, since it is a community that has long fought for the restitution of its lands usurped by a capitalist businessman. Recently, the Mezcala community recovered ten hectares of these lands that belong to them, an achievement that was widely celebrated by the local inhabitants.

The third part presents a theoretical text by Esteban Krotz and three ethnographic reflections based on cases of Latin American communities. While Krotz reviews the trajectory of the concept of utopia and its influence in shaping communities and epistemologies, including the anthropological approach, Alicia Barabas - an expert in the knowledge of the realities of the indigenous peoples of Oaxaca - describes the validity of the community in the northern highlands of the southern state of Mexico. Barabas, with the mastery that characterizes her, relates how a pandemic such as the recent covid-19 pandemic was successfully confronted by these communities, supported by their long-standing traditions and experiences of struggle. For his part, Claudio Palma narrates the struggles of the Mapuche people of Chile to recover their historic territories that have been illegally occupied. The comparison with the struggle of Cherán and Mezcala is worthwhile. This section closes with a text by José Eduardo Zárate that refers to long-standing disputes of the Purepecha people in defense of their rights, their worldviews and their lives.

The last part of the book, significantly entitled "Futuro pasado", is written by Carlos Alberto Casas, Claudia Alejandra Pureco and Nubia Cortés. It is a closure of the work congruent with the previous sections. In all three cases, they explore how the struggle for a better world, a world designed for the future, modifies concrete life in the ethnographic context described by the anthropologist. The texts show that in the present are contained those empirical relations that are capable of sustaining social change, be it the struggle for nature - as in the text by Carlos Casas - or the efforts to recover the sense of ritual among the Nahua of Zongolica, also described by Casas. In Claudia Pureco's text, a reflection is established that links to Vasco de Quiroga's project in the xviinspired by the Utopia of Tomás Moro, with the current neighborhoods of Santa María del Cobre, a community that, like others in Michoacán, is building its autonomy.

Community, utopias and futures. Debates for the century xxi is one of those books that mark important moments in the discussion of central issues for society and for the social sciences themselves.

Andres Fabregas Puig is an ethnologist specializing in ethnohistory and holds a master's degree in Anthropological Sciences from the National School of Anthropology and History; he holds a Ph. ciesas-Mexico. He is a founding member of the Department of Anthropology of the uam-Iztapalapa and ciesas-He also contributed to the reorganization of the Chiapas Institute of Culture. He was awarded the Latin American and Caribbean Prize for Social Sciences, granted by the Latin American Council of Social Sciences (clacso). He has taught anthropology in several Latin American countries, in Spain and in Mexican universities. He has published books, essays, articles, reviews and popularization texts; he is a member of the National System of Researchers.


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