Dialectical Anthropology

, Volume 35, Issue 2, pp 147–169 | Cite as

Renegotiating gender and class in the berry fields of Michoacán, Mexico



This article examines the renegotiation of gender and class in a rural Mexican community where economic crisis in the sugar industry led foreign agribusinesses to promote blackberry and raspberry production for export and hire primarily women as berry pickers. Analysis focuses on the transition from a sugar economy where mostly men worked in the cane fields to non-traditional agricultural exports when women entered agricultural waged labor in unprecedented numbers. This restructuring of the regional economy raises important questions regarding the marginalization of differentiated subaltern groups and the nature of new sets of power relations between transnational agribusinesses, berry growers, and waged workers. I analyze the contradictions of this changing social field that connects Northern consumers, transnational company executives, berry growers, and waged laborers in a web of differential power relations as they reverberate along the commodity chain from campesino households to the global market.


Gender Class Globalization Transnational agribusiness Non-traditional agricultural production 



This research was supported by a University of Minnesota Faculty Summer Research Scholarship. I also presented these materials at the invited session, “Destabilizing Rifts in Agricultural Transformation: Women’s Struggles for Equity, Autonomy, and Empowerment” of the 2006 American Anthropological Association annual meeting and the VII Congreso de la Asociación Latinoamericana de Sociología Rural in Quito, Ecuador. I thank panel members and discussants for their constructive feedback. I am especially appreciative for the time and effort contributed by the Dialectical Anthropology journal’s editorial board and all anonymous reviewers.


  1. Benson, Peter, and Stuart Kirsch. 2009. Corporate Oxymorons. Dialectical Anthropology. doi: 10.1007/s10624-0099112-y. Accessed 15 October 2009.
  2. Binford, Leigh, and Nancy Churchill. 2007. Stoneworkers, masons and maids: Neoliberal crisis, social fields and proletarianization in peri-urban Mexico. Critique of Anthropology 27: 359–375.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Caraway, Teri L. 2007. Assembling women: The feminization of global manufacturing. London: IRL Press.Google Scholar
  4. Casillas Mendoza, Sayra. 2008. Con casi 31 mil toneladas menos que la anterior, la zafra acaba hoy en Santa Clara, Cambio de Michoacán. http://www.cambiodemichoacan.com.mx/vernota.php?id=79849. Accessed 15 May 2008.
  5. Casillas Mendoza, Sayra. 2009. Ingenio Santa Clara concluyó zafra 2008–2009, Cambio de Michoacán. http://www.cambiodemichoacan.com.mx/vernota.php?id=99101. Accessed 30 April 2009.
  6. Chollett, Donna L. 1999. Global competition and community: The struggle for social justice. Research in Economic Anthropology 20: 19–47.Google Scholar
  7. Chollett, Donna L. 2003. In defense of social justice: From global transformation to local resistance. In Struggles for social rights in Latin America, ed. Susan Eckstein and Timothy Wickham-Crowley, 59–79. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  8. Chollett, Donna L. 2009. From sugar to blackberries: Restructuring agro-export production in Michoacán, Mexico. Latin American Perspectives 36 (3): 79–92. doi: 10.1177/0094582X09334158.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Collins, Jane L. 2003. Threads: Gender, labor, and power in the global apparel industry. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  10. Crespo, Horacio, Sergio Reyes Retana, Enrique Vega Villanueva, Arnulfo Embriz, Carlos Zolla, Carlos González Herrera, Alejandro Pinet, and Beatriz Scharrer. 1988. Historia del azúcar en México, vol. 1. México: Fondo de Cultura Económica, S.A. de C.V.Google Scholar
  11. Edelman, Marc, and Angelique Haugerud. 2005. Introduction: The Anthropology of Development and Globalization. In The anthropology of development and globalization: From classical political economy to contemporary neoliberalism, ed. Marc Edelman and Angelique Haugerud, 1–74. Malden: Blackwell Publishing.Google Scholar
  12. Feldman, Shelley. 1992. Crises, poverty, and gender inequality: Current themes and issues. In Unequal burden: economic crises, persistent poverty, and women’s work, ed. Lourdes Benería and Shelley Feldman, 1–25. Boulder: Westview Press.Google Scholar
  13. García Chávez, and Luis Ramiro. 1998. La industria de la fructosa: Su impacto en la agroindustria azucarera mexicana. Chapingo: Universidad Autónoma Chapingo.Google Scholar
  14. Gil, Melina. 2009. Abandonadas, 30 por ciento de superficies de zarzamora. La Jornada Michoacán. http://www.lajornadamichoacan.com.mx/2009/04/06/index.php?section=municipios&article=014n1mun. Accessed 6 April 2009.
  15. Gramsci, Antonio. 1971. Selections from the prison notebooks. New York: International Publishers.Google Scholar
  16. Guzmán Cedeño, José. 2003. Una Ventana al Pasado y el Presente de Los Reyes. Morelia: Ediciones Michoacanas.Google Scholar
  17. Hernández Robledo, Christian. 2009. Falta de innovación tecnológica frena el desarrollo de ingenios michoacanos. Cambio de Michoacán, http://www.cambiodemichoacan.com.mx/vernota.php?id=114303. Accessed 17 January 2010.
  18. International Solidarity. 2006. International Solidarity. Mexican Labor News and Analysis 11 (2). http://www.ueinternational.org/Mexico_info/mlna_articles.php?id=98#530. Accessed 1 February 2010.
  19. LaBotz, Dan, and Robin Alexander. 2005. The escalating struggles over Mexico’s labor law. NACLA Report on the Americas 39 (1): 16–22.Google Scholar
  20. Leacock, Eleanor. 1983. Interpreting the origins of gender inequality: Conceptual and historical problems. Dialectical Anthropology 7 (4): 263–284.Google Scholar
  21. Martínez-Salazar, Elga. 1999. The “poisoning” of indigenous migrant women workers and children: From deadly colonialism to toxic globalization. In Women working the Nafta food chain: Women, food and globalization, ed. Deborah Barndt, 100–111. Toronto: Second Story Press.Google Scholar
  22. Meyer, Michael C., and William L. Sherman. 1979. The course of Mexican history. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  23. Mintz, Sidney W. 1985. Sweetness and power: The place of sugar in modern history. New York: Viking Press.Google Scholar
  24. Mintz, Sidney W. 1998. The localization of anthropological practice: From area studies to transnationalism. Critique of Anthropology 18 (2): 117–133.Google Scholar
  25. Pearson, Ruth. 1998. “Nimble fingers” revisited: Reflections on women and third world industrialization in the late twentieth century. In Feminist visions of development: Gender analysis and policy, ed. Cecile Jackson and Ruth Pearson, 171–188. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  26. Reyes García, Cayetano. 1989. Las condiciones materiales del campo michoacano, 1900–1940. In Historia General de Michoacán, Vol. IV, ed. Enrique Florescano, 107–127. Morelia, Mexico: Instituto Michacano de Cultura.Google Scholar
  27. Roseberry, William. 1983. Coffee and capitalism in the Venezuelan Andes. Austin: University of Texas Press.Google Scholar
  28. Roseberry, William. 1989. Anthropologies and histories: Essays in culture, history and political economy. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press.Google Scholar
  29. Roseberry, William. 1996. The unbearable lightness of anthropology. Radical History Review 65: 73–93.Google Scholar
  30. Rubio, Blanca. 2006. Exclusión rural y resistencia social en América Latina. Análisis Latinoamericano del medio rural 4: 1–14.Google Scholar
  31. Tuñon Pablos, Julia. 1987. Women in Mexico: A past unveiled. Austin: University of Texas Press.Google Scholar
  32. White, Marceline, Carlos Salas, and Sarah Gammage. 2003. NAFTA and the FTAA: A gender analysis of employment and poverty impacts in agriculture. Women’s Edge Coalition. http://www.tradeobservatory.org/library.cfm?refID=26000. Accessed 30 November 2003.
  33. Williams, Raymond. 1973. The country and the city. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  34. Wright, Melissa W. 2006. Disposable women and other myths of global capitalism. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  35. Zapeda Patterson, Jorge. 1989. Michoacán en la época de Lázaro Cárdenas. In Historia General de Michoacán, Vol. IV, ed. Enrique Florescano, 131–153. Morelia, Mexico: Instituto Michacano de Cultura.Google Scholar
  36. Zermeño, Sergio. 2008. Desolation: Mexican Campesinos and agriculture in the 21st century. NACLA Report on the Americas 41 (5): 28–32.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Division of Social SciencesUniversity of Minnesota-MorrisMorrisUSA

Personalised recommendations