Urban, rural and indigenous ritual practices in Mexico : between symbolism and political strategies.

Projet présenté par la Prof. Silvia Mancini dans le cadre de l'appel à projets 2015 SEED MONEY GRANTS FOR LATIN AMERICA, lancé par l’EPFL en lien avec les programmes bilatéraux soutenus par le Secrétariat d’État pour l’Éducation, la Recherche et l’Innovation.

Le projet a débuté le 1er octobre 2015 et a reçu un financement de la CODEV. Partenaires institutionnels : Universidad Iberoamericana, Mexico City (prof. D. Robicheaux); Colegio de San Luis Potosì (Prof. A. Gutierrez del Angel).

Abstract : Our research project proposes a reappraisal of the ritual institution, considered in its relation to the practice of the exercise of power. Departing from the usual reading of ritual as a self-contained ‘representation’ in the magical-religious and the symbolic order and, thereby, as a mere expression of the ‘ideology’ or ‘cosmovision’ of certain traditional cultures, we will discuss ritual as an instrument of action and as a mode of political action in its own right. Such an approach is justified by the presence in Mexico of diverse ritual institutions (such as cults, forms of devotion, festive cycles, pilgrimages, ceremonial dances, etc.) that support and help create specific political strategies designed to bring about changes in the power relations between the groups involved. In the project we are pursuing four objectives of a scientific-cognitive, political, and ethical nature, and seek to: A) ‘Decolonialize’ anthropological knowledge by reinstating, in a non-Eurocentric perspective, a greater symmetry between the western observer and the observed local cultures; B) ‘Dereligionize’ ritual, by studying it as a specific modus operandi that obtains factual results in the form of recourse to a specific ‘fictional technique’; C) Shed light on other less explicit but equally effective ways of ‘doing politics’; D) Question the socio-political relations between the centre and the periphery, the local and the global, in certain regions of Mexico.

The research is to be conducted as a two-stage process: 1) Multi-method field-research will be carried out by a Swiss-Mexican team in regions located in central, north-central and western Mexico. The unity of the investigation in various geographical institutions and regions is based on haven chosen a common methodology (participant observation, qualitative methods of personal interview and of ‘life story’, methodical use of audiovisual instruments). 2) The material thus gathered will be confronted in meetings of the research team designed to assess the fit between the collected materials, the methodology adopted and the hypotheses of the initial research. And that, with a view to validate or invalidate the basic premises. The most significant conclusions of the meeting will be brought forward and shape the object of an in-depth and long-term research project.

Our endeavour is that our project will present to the international scientific community and to the national and international governing class a view of sociopolitical processes as they operate, in concrete sociocultural milieus considered to be marginal. We thus hope that we can sensitize political decision-makers to a more inclusive and respectful vision of the sociocultural specificities of minorities.

Key-words: Ritual, political processes, social conflicts, symbolic mechanisms, ortho-practices of power, centre/periphery relations.

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