Paper Short Abstract:
My thesis project has been presented to the same people of an indigenous community that it was written about. The data challenges views of indigenous passivity based on a dichotomy of 'traditional' versus 'modern'. The paper describes the thesis and its reception by members of the community.
Paper long abstract:
Western binary concepts such as wilderness/civilisation, tradition/modernity, and stagnation/progress have made their way around the globe. During the past years they have also constituted the basis of many anthropological publications. Development agents, politicians and television documentaries often present marginalised groups by reference to such binary concepts as stagnating, wild, backward, and traditional. At times, even marginalised groups, e.g. some Mexican indigenous peoples, define themselves along this line. Arjun Appadurai, Michael Kearney, Anna Tsing and others argue that global realities challenge binary based (anthropological) thinking. At the end of my fieldwork in an indigenous Nahua community in Michoacán along the Mexican Pacific coast I had the opportunity to discuss globalization processes with local people, especially globalization dynamics locally fostered through the presence of development agencies, environmental projects, and the tourism industry. An important issue is also the local migration to the USA. All these factors led triggered organisational changes of the community and furthered the presence of modern mass media, such as television. I used my own research findings to discuss such issues. I presented them to selected families and to the community during assemblies. I did workshops on my topic in schools and gave a presentation at the regional Indigenous Intercultural University. I had the chance to challenge common views of local stagnation, ignorance and wilderness. In my paper I argue that through engagement in local discourses that are in fact often based on "European discourses gone global" anthropology has the potential to become relevant also in the day to day living of people.
European discourse gone global: shaping the lives of people worldwide and being shaped by them