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Crafting culture : artisan cooperatives in Oaxaca, Mexico


As the cultural tourism industry expands in Mexico, the implications for Oaxacan artisans and their crafts are far -reaching. The economic crises of the 1980s and early 1990s led to a renewed push by the government to promote tourism and a state-sponsored idea of mexicanidad, which has resulted in the increased commercialization of crafts. This project focuses on artesanías within the framework of cultural tourism in order to examine the ways in which lo mexicano is packaged for tourist consumption, and how participation in an increasingly globalized market shapes artisans' perceptions of their crafts. The impact of neoliberal economic policies on craft production and the turn to cooperative organization has been studied in depth (Cohen 1998, 1999a, 1999b, 2000; Stephen 1991, 2005a, 2005b); this paper expands on the existing literature by going beyond economic processes of production and consumption to consider the impact of cooperative production on the symbolic meaning(s) of artesanías, for both those who produce them and those who acquire them. Using in-depth ethnographic interviews, this project investigates how artesanías reflect mexicanidad, and conversely, how mexicanidad is shaped by the insertion of artesanías into the global market.

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