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The dividing line : myth and experience in Mexico's 1968 student movement


My dissertation seeks to examine conceptions of the 1968 Mexican student movement--both academic and popular--in light of new sources. As a whole, the literature on 1968 focuses on the unique nature of the movement and its tragic end, yet with the result that the social, economic and political origins of the movement, and their specific global-historical context, remain obscured. Moreover, this scholarship has less to say concerning the specific modes of political organization which shaped the movement and linked it to other recent protests and strikes in postwar Mexico. Based on recently declassified state security documents, newspapers, memoirs, and interviews, my dissertation reconstructs the movement focusing on the daily behavior of the students, and reveals the scope and breadth of their activities, their interactions with other groups as well as agents of the state, and their use of city space. What emerges is a new understanding of how and why students protested. Students adeptly manipulated their urban environment, attempting to form alliances with workers, campesinos, and doctors. The city itself was an area of contestation in which state authorities and protestors confronted each other daily on the streets. By observing the interaction between students and state, I am able to show how a case was built for violence as a legitimate response. In this, the larger context of Cold War geopolitical competition frequently intruded into the government's ability to comprehend what was in fact a largely national movement. Because 1968 is considered to have shaped the politics of a generation, I also examine the effects of the mobilization on political consciousness and identity. I examine the way in which university students become politicized, the meaning of student politics, and the frames through which students articulated their critique. What comes to light is more complete understanding of the types of consciousness which drove participation in the 1968 movement, as well as students' relationship to political authority and to each other. While ultimately a national movement, these must be understood within the context of the 1960s, a period in which students mobilized around the world

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