Collaborative anthropology, work, and textual reception in a Mexican Nahua village

by ANATH ARIEL DE VIDAS

Read Article

Since the 1980s, anthropologists have been valorizing the notion of working together with their research participants to produce knowledge. But what happens when the anthropologist's notion of collaboration differs radically from that of the people with whom he or she wishes to collaborate? My initial attempt at such collaboration with indigenous Nahua people in a Mexican village seemed to fail miserably, yet, over time, the situation changed. Reflecting on the misunderstandings surrounding our discussions on the first drafts of my book about the village provides a glimpse of the cultural context in which the interaction was forged. It raises questions about literacy, the authority of knowledge, and my interlocutors’ views of social relationships. In particular, an understanding of the local notion of work proved crucial to grasping the evolution of these exchanges. The latter reveal Nahua ontologies as well as my own.