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The Social Relations of Mexican Commodities: Power, Production, and Place

Casey Walsh, Elizabeth Emma Ferry, Gabriela Soto Laveaga, Paola Sesia, and Sarah Hill
The Social Relations of Mexican Commodities: Power, Production, and Place
ISBN: 978-1-87836-749-5
2003/190 pages
U.S.-Mexico Contemporary Perspectives Series
Distributed for the Center for U.S.-Mexican Studies at the University of California, San Diego

"The Social Relations of Mexican Commodities is the best country-focused collection of essays on commodities in Latin America. It establishes that 'the commodity' remains the most powerful lens through which to understand not only Mexico but the modern world. By examining the production and consumption of a wide range of products - from cotton, coffee, and silver to wild yams, culture, and even garbage - this volume is more than a study of commodities. It is a history of twentieth-century Mexico. The Social Relations of Mexican Commodities shows in exceptionally rich detail how Mexicans not only produced 'things,' but in so doing remade themselves - their political, social, economic, and cultural worlds. A truly splendid collection."—Steven Striffler, Associate Professor of Anthropoloty, University of Arkansas

"A groundbreaking collection of essays on 'people producing commodities in particular places' that is both contemporary and conscious of the importance of situating itself within the history of commodity studies in Latin America."—Gail Mummert, Research Professor, El Colegio de Michoacán


From the introduction:

"How small groups and localities are drawn together into larger political, economic, social, and ideological systems remains a gripping question in historical social science and the study of Latin America. This concern with the articulation of groups within systems informs our understanding of 'the social relations of commodities.' We draw attention to the ways in which social relations underwrite the production and circulation of commodities and are at the same time defined by this very process."

The authors examine this theme in the context of northern Mexico's cotton sector, the extraction of steroid hormones from wild yams in Oaxaca, indigenous agriculture and food security in Oaxaca, silver and cultural properties in Guanajuato, and garbage disposal on Mexico's northern frontier.


  • Introduction: Production, Power, and Place—Casey Walsh and Elizabeth Emma Ferry.
  • "A Rosy Future": Cotton and Regional Development in Mexico's Northern Borderlands, 1920-1965—Casey Walsh.
  • Steroid Hormones and Social Relations in Oaxaca—Gabriela Soto Laveaga
  • Repeasantation and Decommodification of Indigenous Agriculture: Coffee, Corn, and Food Security in Oaxaca—Paola Sesia.
  • Nuestro Patrimonio: Controlling the Commodification of Silver and Cultural Properties in Guanajuato, Mexico—Elizabeth Emma Ferry.
  • The Wasted Resources of Mexicanidad: Consumption and Disposal on Mexico's Northern Frontier—Sarah Hill.
  • List of Acronyms.