“What the Strong Owe to the Weak”

Rationality, Domestic Violence, and Governmentality in Nineteenth-Century Mexico
  • Ana María Alonso


Examining nineteenth-century domestic violence cases from the rural town of Namiquipa, Chihuahua, Mexico, highlights the ways in which law was a site for the negotiation of gender, ethnic, and class identities and the power differences they entailed. I analyze local cases in relation to a study of broad processes of governmentality in Mexico, where the “Liberal revolution” of the mid-nineteenth century spurred attempts to ground political authority in legal-rational rather than patrimonial forms of legitimation. In order to write about domestic violence in Mexico from my social and geographic location as a “Hispanic” anthropologist at the University of Arizona, I have had to face a dilemma. How do I critique forms of gender, ethnic, and class subjection in Mexico without feeding “Anglo” stereotypes on the United States side of the border that characterize “Hispanic” men as violent machos and women as stoic martyrs? Here, I negotiate my dilemma by putting into question the binary oppositions that underpin ethnic stereotypes as well as forms of identity constituted by bourgeois law.


Domestic Violence Civil Code Criminal Case Wife Beating Legitimate Authority 
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Copyright information

© Rosario Montoya, Lessie Jo Frazier, and Janise Hurtig 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ana María Alonso

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