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Volume 65 / Social Sciences

SOCIOLOGY: MEXICO


ANTONIO UGALDE, Professor of Sociology, University of Texas at Austin

DURING THIS BIENNIUM THE THEMATIC TREND from the last biennia has been reinforced. Gender studies have become a mainstream field among Mexican sociologists; women sociologists are very active at organizing conferences and symposia on gender issues. Organizers frequently make sure to publish a selection of the papers, which explains why some of the works reviewed for this HLAS volume contain a relatively large number of individual studies. By and large the collections include a variety of topics (see, for example, items #bi2008000109# and #bi2008000127#). Articles and monographs on gender examine many different topics such as female migration flows, disability statistics, shifts in male-female power relations (for an excellent study, see item #bi2007003083#), household and urban violence, the role of women in social movements, and participation and discrimination in the labor force. Cisneros and Luna's study of social stratification of women inmates in the prison system is an original topic and a valuable contribution to the literature on Mexican sociology (item #bi2006000747#).

An unusually large number of articles and books on Ciudad Juárez are included in this review. The city's location makes it an important transit area for drugs and migrants. In-fighting among drug cartels has led to unprecedented levels of violence to the extent that the federal government was forced to militarize the city in an attempt to control the take-over of the city by drug traffickers. In addition, Ciudad Juárez's many maquilas provide jobs for thousands of women from other parts of the country. The high number of women assassinated—about 400 in the last 12 years—has called the attention of the national and international media. Social scientists and investigative reporters have tried to explain the rising level of violence against women, mostly maquila workers, that, for the most part, appears unrelated to the drug trafficking. Ravelo and Domínguez have edited an excellent volume providing thoughtful insights into the problem (item #bi2008000036#). The literature also examines the response by NGOs both in Ciudad Juárez and in El Paso across the international border, including marches and protests.

Mexican sociologists are increasingly specializing in criminology. In recent years, drug-related violence in the country has, according to observers, severely weakened the very foundations of the state. Drug money is corrupting the judicial and political systems, the executive, the police, and even the army; and violence and corruption are responsible for the frequent use of torture. Of interest is the study of torture, commissioned by the Mexican Commission on Human Rights (item #bi2008000112#), that discusses documented cases of torture committed by the state. Interestingly, the study does not include cases perpetrated by the drug cartels. However, it is important to note that violence is not confined to drug trafficking alone. Studies on urban gang violent behavior, the victimization of prostitutes and gays, and even violence erupting at soccer games appear in this review. Some sophisticated qualitative research is presented on the police force (see the solid studies by Suárez de Garay (items #bi2008000037# and #bi2006001688#), the prison system, descriptive work on the cartels, the organization of urban gangs, the acceptance of drug lords by the poor, and studies that analyze citizens' concerns for safety and security.

Research on migration, both internal and international, continues to take place but, as with the last HLAS volume, there is a shift from demographic to ethnographic work. Examinations of international migration are beginning to focus on links between migrants and those left behind by studying place of origin alongside destination. Researchers are also looking at the positive and negative consequences that international migration has on Mexican communities, analyzing the impact of remittances in rural development (see the excellent collection edited by Suárez y Zapata, item #bi2008000118#), the local impact of human resources drain or the benefits on international migration in language acquisition. A valuable teaching tool is the outstanding book edited by López Castro (item #bi2008000110#) that combines photographs depicting international migration with scholarly chapters.

The tradition of political sociology, one of the strengths of Mexican sociology continues. Materials reviewed in this section include research on the transition from a one-party to a multiparty system. Nevertheless, there is a vacuum of research on the performance and achievements of the PAN, the new party in power, as well as a lack of analysis on the impact of a multiparty system on democracy (for one exception see item #bi2007000499#). Readers interested in political behavior will find useful chapters in the edited volume by González (item #bi2008000108#). On the other hand, an abundance of research exists on social movements, including those with a transnational reach. The study of social movements includes case studies of student, labor, and urban movements, which examine the organizational characteristics, tactics used to achieve the objectives, and results. By and large the case studies are informative and of high quality.

In Mexico, studies of race relations have traditionally consisted of work that characterized the discrimination of indigenous communities. Occasionally, research on other minority groups such as Jews and Palestinians has been published. For the first time, we are seeing studies of Afro-Mexicans—research that stands out because of its novelty and quality.

The theoretical influence of French sociologists and thinkers is noticeable in a number of writings. The quantitative approach that has become dominant in US sociology has not taken root in Mexican sociology. At the same time, US reaction to the events of September 11, 2001, by tightening the border has made it difficult for Mexican sociologists to cross the border and participate as frequently in conferences in the US as in the past and to interact with their US colleagues; difficulties in obtaining visas have also played a role in distancing Mexican and US sociologists. As a result, more Mexican graduate students are studying in Europe. An example of the growing ties between Mexican and French sociologists is the volume edited by Gutiérrez (item #bi2008000047#).


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