Accepted Paper:

has pdf download "Indigenizing" or "interculturalizing" universities in Mexico: an ethnography of the local appropiation of globalized diversity discourses inside the "Universidad Veracruzana Intercultural"  


Laura Selene Mateos Cortés (Universidad Veracruzana)
Gunther Dietz (Universidad Veracruzana)

Paper short abstract:

This paper contributes an ethnography of the "Universidad Veracruzana Intercultural" in Mexico, a new kind of university strongly influenced by the transfer of European notions of "interculturality" and which aims at empowering indigenous peoples.

Paper long abstract:

Multicultural discourse has reached Latin American higher education as a set of policies targeting indigenous peoples, which are strongly influenced by the transfer of European notions of "interculturality". In Mexico, innovative and often polemical "intercultural universities or colleges" are being created either by governments, by NGOs or by pre-existing universities. Paradoxically, this trend towards "diversifying" both ethno-cultural profiles and curricular contents, coincides with a broader tendency to force institutions of higher education to become more "efficient", "corporate" and "outcome-oriented". Accordingly, these still very recent "intercultural universities" are often criticized as part of a common policy of "privatization", "neoliberalization" and "particularization" which weakens the universalist and comprehensive nature of Latin American public marco-universities. Indigenous leaders, on the contrary, frequently claim and celebrate the appearance of these new higher education opportunities as part of a strategy of empowering ethnic actors of indigenous or afro-descendant origin.

Going beyond this polemic, this paper proposes an ethnographically based case study of the ways political and educational networks are being configured around the actors participating in the configuration of the Universidad Veracruzana Intercultural (UVI), located at the Mexican gulf coast. On the basis of fieldwork conducted in the four indigenous regions where the UVI offers a B.A. in "intercultural management for development", the appropriation of as well as the resistance against the discourse of interculturality is studied by comparing the actors' teaching and learning practices, which are strongly shaped by an innovative and hybrid mixture of conventional university teaching, community-oriented research and "employability"-driven development projects.

Panel W034
Anthropologies of university reform: restructuring of higher education - anthropological perspectives