Youth in Movement: The Cultural Politics of Autonomous Youth Activism in Southern Mexico
MetadataShow full item record
This dissertation offers a unique examination of new cultures and forms of social movement organizing that include horizontal networking, non-hierarchical decision-making and governance combined with the importance of public visual art. Based on 23 months of ethnographic fieldwork, I analyze how processes of neoliberalism and globalization have influenced youth organizing and shaped experiences of historical marginalization. What makes youth activism in Southern Mexico unique from that occurring elsewhere (i.e. Occupy Movements in U.S. and Europe) is the incorporation of indigenous organizing practices and identities with urban subcultures. At the same time, the movements I study share important characteristics with other social movements, including their reliance on direct-action tactics such as occupations of public space and sit-ins, as well as their creative use of digital media technologies (i.e. Arab Spring). This research contributes to the study of social movements and popular politics, globalization, culture and resistance, and the politics of space by examining how youth activists combine everyday practices and traditional social movement actions to sustain autonomous political projects that subvert institutional and spatial hierarchies. They do so through decentralized activist networks that resist cooptation by the state and traditional opposition parties, while at the same time contesting the spatial exclusion of marginalized communities from the city center. This research contributes a critical analysis of the limits of traditional models of social change through electoral politics and traditional opposition groups, such as labor unions, by challenging us to take seriously the innovative models of politics, culture and governance that Mexican youth are offering us. At a larger level, my work suggests the importance of genuinely engaging with alternative epistemologies that come from places we may not expect- in this case urban, indigenous, and marginalized youth.