Over the past two decades, Zapatista indigenous community members have asserted their autonomy and self-determination by using everyday practices as part of their struggle for lekil kuxlejal, a dignified collective life connected to a specific territory. This in-depth ethnography summarizes Mariana Mora's more than ten years of extended research and solidarity work in Chiapas, with Tseltal and Tojolabal community members helping to design and evaluate her fieldwork. The result of that collaboration—a work of activist anthropology—reveals how Zapatista kuxlejal (or life) politics unsettle key racialized effects of the Mexican neoliberal state.
Kuxlejal Politics focuses on central spheres of Zapatista indigenous autonomy, particularly governing practices, agrarian reform, women's collective work, and the implementation of justice, as well as health and education projects. Mora situates the proposals, possibilities, and challenges associated with these decolonializing cultural politics in relation to the racialized restructuring that has characterized the Mexican state over the past twenty years. She demonstrates how, despite official multicultural policies designed to offset the historical exclusion of indigenous people, the Mexican state actually refueled racialized subordination through ostensibly color-blind policies, including neoliberal land reform and poverty alleviation programs. Mora's findings allow her to critically analyze the deeply complex and often contradictory ways in which the Zapatistas have reconceptualized the political and contested the ordering of Mexican society along lines of gender, race, ethnicity, and class.
Mariana Mora is Associate Professor - Researcher at the Center for Research and Advanced Studies in Social Anthropology (CIESAS) in Mexico City. She holds a Ph.D. in Anthropology from the University of Texas at Austin and an M.A. in Latin American Studies from Stanford University. Her research focuses on struggles against the continued processes of colonization as part of state formation in Latin America, including in indigenous regions in Mexico; critical race and gender studies; decoloniality and the political; her recent work centers of race and human rights regimes as part of struggles for justice in cases of forced disappearance and territorial dispossession. She is a part of the continental Anti-Racist Action Research Network (Red Investigación Acción Anti- Racista, RAIAR) through the Mexico based Collective to Eliminate Racism in Mexico (Colectivo para Eliminar el Racismo en México, Copera).
Elsa Stamatopoulou joined Columbia University in 2011 after a 31-year service at the United Nations with some 22 years dedicated to human rights, in addition to 8 years exclusively devoted to Indigenous Peoples’ rights. Indigenous issues were part of her portfolio since 1983 and she became the first Chief of the Secretariat of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in 2003. She is the first Director of the Indigenous Peoples Rights Program at the Institute for the Study of Human Rights at Columbia. Her academic background is in law, international law, criminal justice and political science (Athens Law School, Vienna University, Northeastern University and Graduate Institute of International Studies at the University of Geneva). She has received various awards including the Ingrid Washinawatok El Issa O’Peqtaw Metaehmoh-Flying Eagle Woman Peace, Justice and Sovereignty Award; the Eleanor Roosevelt Award of the Human Rights Center and of Voices 21; theInnovation in Academia Award for Arts & Culture, 2016, by the University of Kent (UK). In 2016, she was featured as one of the UN’s 80 Leading Women from 1945-2016.
Books: Cultural Rights in International Law, 2007, Martinus Nijhoff Publishers (Brill); Indigenous Peoples’ Rights and Unreported Struggles: Conflict and Peace (ed.) , 2017,; Indigenous Peoples’ Access to Justice, Including Truth and Reconciliation Processes, (ed. with W. Littlechild), 2014, both with Columbia University Institute for the Study of Human Rights); The Universal Declaration of Human Rights: 50 Years and Beyond (ed. with Y. Danieli and C. Diaz), 1998, Baywood Publishing Co. Walking and Learning with Indigenous Peoples (ed. with Pamela Calla) , Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race and Institute fir the Study of Human Rights, Columbia University, 2018, Columbia University Academic Commons. She oversaw the first edition of the UN publication State of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, New York, 2009.Book chapters and articles she has published deal with Indigenous Peoples’ rights, women’s rights, historical injustice and human rights responses, cultural rights, development and international organizations, among other topics.
Melissa M. Forbis is a cultural anthropologist and assistant professor of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Stony Brook University. Her publications on gender, Indigenous rights, the Zapatista movement, and state violence have appeared in the U.S., Mexico, and Chile. Her decades-long community work spans issues such as sexual violence, immigrant rights, and prison abolition. She is a member of the Interference Archive in Brooklyn.