Huichol Territory and the Mexican Nation
Indigenous Ritual, Land Conflict, and Sovereignty Claims
The Huichol (Wixarika) people claim a vast expanse of Mexico’s western Sierra Madre and northern highlands as a territory called kiekari, which includes parts of the states of Nayarit, Jalisco, Durango, Zacatecas, and San Luis Potosí. This territory forms the heart of their economic and spiritual lives. But indigenous land struggle is a central fact of Mexican history, and in this fascinating new work Paul Liffman expands our understanding of it. Drawing on contemporary anthropological theory, he explains how Huichols assert their sovereign rights to collectively own the 1,500 square miles they inhabit and to practice rituals across the 35,000 square miles where their access is challenged. Liffman places current access claims in historical perspective, tracing Huichol communities’ long-term efforts to redress the inequitable access to land and other resources that their neighbors and the state have imposed on them.
Liffman writes that “the cultural grounds for territorial claims were what the people I wanted to study wanted me to work on.” Based on six years of collaboration with a land-rights organization, interviews, and participant observation in meetings, ceremonies, and extended stays on remote rancherías, Huichol Territory and the Mexican Nation analyzes the sites where people define Huichol territory. The book’s innovative structure echoes Huichols’ own approach to knowledge and examines the nation and state, not just the community. Liffman’s local, regional, and national perspective informs every chapter and expands the toolkit for researchers working with indigenous communities. By describing Huichols’ ceremonially based placemaking to build a theory of “historical territoriality,” he raises provocative questions about what “place” means for native peoples worldwide.
"If you read one book this year on issues of space and place, make it Paul Liffman’s Huichol Territory and the Mexican Nation."—Journal of Folklore Research
"Books like Huichol Territory and the Mexican Nation: Indigenous Ritual, Land Conflict, and Sovereignty by Paul M. Liffman are welcome, necessary reminders that Indians in Mexico still must fight for respect and their ancestral lands."—Gustavo Arellano, author of Ask a Mexican
“This book represents an important intervention and addition to the literature as it combines the study of place and ceremony with finely honed awareness of contemporary indigeneity, indigenous politics, and the politics of representation.”—Kirstin C. Erickson, author of Yaqui Homeland and Homeplace: The Everyday Production of Ethnic Identity