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Title: Solidarity in the Sand: Labor, Capitalist Development, and Contestation in Mexico's Maya Riviera
Authors: Hunter, Brandon
Advisors: GreenhouseRouse, CarolCarolyn J.
Contributors: Anthropology Department
Keywords: capitalist development
labor unions
Subjects: Cultural anthropology
Latin American studies
Labor relations
Issue Date: 2022
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: Set in the town of Playa del Carmen, Mexico, my dissertation traces the expansion of organized labor in the Maya Riviera’s quickly growing tourism sector. My findings challenge well-established accounts of tourism development in Mexico which emphasize the sector’s relationship to neoliberal forms of capitalist development premised on the flexibilization of labor markets and the weakening of unions. Based on nearly two years of ethnographic fieldwork split evenly between the Sindicato de Taxistas (taxi driver union) and the Confederación Revolucionario de Obreros y Campesinos (CROC, resort and hotel worker union), I uncover a surprisingly robust labor movement underway. In this context, I examine the important political-economic and sociocultural roles each union plays in local community dynamics while also carefully documenting the different and contested meanings workers attach to their union membership. In doing so, I uncover the wide-ranging effects each union has on life in the Maya Riviera. These effects include efforts to improve workplace conditions, strengthen gender and kin relations, unions’ complicated relationships to organized crime and the local vice economy, and their impact on the environment. Organized labor in the tourism sector, I show, has led to upward mobility and job stability for workers, but at the cost of generating new inequalities across class, ethnic, and gender lines, implicating workers in organized crime, and cementing a reliance on ecologically unsustainable tourism development. To make sense of these tensions, my project engages with and builds upon the enduring social science concept of solidarity, which I examine as both a social process and as an ethical bond linking different people together. Each union, I argue, indexes a different and imperfect form of solidarity reflective of the sociocultural and political-economic contradictions of tourism and capitalist development in Mexico. My study concludes by retheorizing solidarity as a continuous and laborious process premised on the collective struggle to reduce inequality and harmonize, rather than erase, difference. In this view, solidarity is treated as a form of social labor that necessitates attending to the conditions and ethics under which it is performed.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog:
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Anthropology

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