Where the Dove Calls
The Political Ecology of a Peasant Corporate Community in Northwestern Mexico
Thomas Sheridan’s study of the municipio of Cucurpe, Sonora, offers new insight into the ability of peasants to respond to ecological and political change. In order to survive as small rancher-farmers, the Cucurpeños battle aridity and one another in a society characterized by sharp economic inequality and long-standing conflict over the distribution of land and water. Sheridan has written an ethnography of resource control, one that weds the approaches of political economy and cultural ecology in order to focus upon both the external linkages and internal adaptations that shape three peasant corporate communities. He examines the ecological and economic constraints which scarce and necessary resources place upon households in Cucurpe, and then investigates why many such households have formed corporate communities to insure their access to resources beyond their control. Finally, he identifies the class differences that exist within the corporate communities as well as between members of those organizations and the private ranchers who surround them. Where the Dove Calls (the meaning of “Cucurpe” in the language of the Opata Indians), an important contribution to peasant studies, reveals the household as the basic unit of Cucurpe society. By viewing Cucurpe’s corporate communities as organizations of fiercely independent domestic units rather than as expressions of communal solidarity, Sheridan shows that peasants are among the exploiters as well as the exploited. Cucurpe¤os struggle to maintain the autonomy of their households even as they join together to protect corporate grazing lands and irrigation water. Any attempt to weaken or destroy that independence is met with opposition that ranges from passive resistance to violence.
"A clear, sympathetic, and often eloquent portrait of an adaptable people making its way in the face of a harsh social and natural environment." Dwight B. Heath, Ethnohistory"A historically sensitive, ethnographically rich, sociologically sophisticated, and very impressive effort to produce the kind of systemic analysis that anthropologists so often strive after, but rarely accomplish." Emilio F. Moran, American Ethnologist"Where the Dove Calls is proof that anthropologists can write wellat times even daringlyand be substantively informative and theoretically provocative without losing sight of the subject, society, and the people who live and act in society." Daniel Nugent, Journal of Anthropological Research"Stakes out new methodological and theoretical ground for geographers interested in cultural-ecological and cultural-historical approaches." Karl S. Zimmer, Annals of the Association of American Geographers