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In Self Defense: The Politics of Lynching in Contemporary Mexico

In Self Defense: The Politics of Lynching in Contemporary Mexico

Date: Wed. 27 Feb, 2019 12:00 pm - 2:00 pm

The Latin American Studies Program
cordially invites you to a Luncheon Series Lecture titled

In Self Defense:
The Politics of Lynching in Contemporary Mexico

by Paul Eiss

rata linchamiento tlanalapan

Abstract of Presentation


Large-scale, public, extrajudicial killings have become an increasingly frequent occurrence in Mexico.  According to press reports over the last two decades, as many as one thousand lynchings and attempted lynchings have taken place in various states.  Scholarly studies, public officials, and media commentators tend to present the phenomenon as a spontaneous reaction of rural or urban populations that are “fed-up” (harto) with conditions of insecurity and tenuous law enforcement; in some cases, such episodes are also read as expressions of indigenous communitarian justice (usos y costumbres).  In this talk, I will consider lynchings not just as episodes of vigilantism or communitarianism, but as political events, whose participants include not only those directly involved, but police and politicians who respond to them, as well as contributors to ensuing public debates surrounding the interpretation of the lynchings as deeply consequential for society and state in Mexico.  I argue that lynchings increasingly unfold, and are perceived, not just as responses to criminality, but as expressions of public political resistance, foregrounding conflicts over the nature of sovereignty, and opposing the rights and will of “the people” (el pueblo) to the institutional order, legitimacy and very existence of the state (el estado de derecho).


About the Presenter

Eiss PhotoPaul K. Eiss is an Associate Professor of Anthropology and History in Carnegie Mellon’s Department of History. His publications include the book, In the Name of El Pueblo: Place, Community and the Politics of History in Yucatán (Duke University Press, 2010) and the edited volume, The Politics and Performance of Mestizaje in Latin America: Mestizo Acts (Routledge, 2018). He has conducted extensive archival and ethnographic research in Mexico. Eiss is currently pursuing three research projects. The first examines practices and rhetoric of collective violence and collective self-defense in contemporary Mexico. The second is a study of mestizaje and performance in Yucatán—and particularly in Yucatecan teatro regional—from the early 19th century to the present. The third is a study of indigeneity, translation, and the politics of memory in revolutionary and post-revolutionary Yucatán.


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Please note: We offer a light lunch to those who register before the deadline below. If the deadline for registration has passed, please feel free to join us for the lecture and bring your own lunch.

Event Registration

Registration Start: Wed. 6 Feb, 2019
Registration End: Mon. 25 Feb, 2019