Center for Studies in Demography and Ecology

Symbolic Ethnicity? The Unexpected Re-Emergence of Indigeneity in Mexico, Rene Flores (SocSEM!, 2/26/2019)

Posted: 2/22/2019 (Local Events)

For decades, scholars and policy makers have expected indigenous ethnicity in Mexico to gradually fade away due to cultural assimilation. Nevertheless, in 2010, the percentage of Mexicans who identified as indigenous in the Census more than doubled going from 6% to 15% between 2000 and 2010, a net gain of more than 11 million new indigenous people. This rise in indigenous identification seemingly challenges long-held views that indigenous ethnicity in Mexico was destined to fade away. Though the reasons behind this unexpected demographic phenomenon have been widely debated, no satisfactory explanation has been produced. We conduct the first systematic analysis to help explain it. We rely on census data and two original nationally representative survey experiments. We identify three processes that could explain this unexpected “ethnic explosion.” We find that natural demographic processes are insufficient to explain it. Instead, changes in the phrasing of the identity question used by the Mexican Census in 2010 were largely responsible for such dramatic increase. These wording changes redefined indigenous identity in a more symbolic way, which made it more appealing to more Mexicans. This involved two mechanisms: (1) avoidance of essentialist language (essentialism) and (2) not treating indigeneity as a collective condition (groupness).

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Date: 02/26/2019

Time: 12:00-1:30 PM

Location: Savery 409