UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Voices of hope : examining the empowerment planning process of indigenous women in Chiapas = Hablando la esperanza : una reflexión sobre el ejercicio de la palabra en el proceso de empoderamiento de las mujeres indígenas en Chiapas Cassaigne, Paola


Since colonization, Indigenous women in Chiapas have occupied very disadvantaged social positions, characterized by ethnic, gender and class-based oppression. However, during the last thirty five years, important social dynamics have taken place which have driven women to perceive themselves as the main actors of social transformation, and to start participating in planning and development efforts at a household and community level. Building on the ideas of Paulo Freire and Pierre Bourdieu, oppression is understood as a dynamic where the oppressed are also implicated by, among other things, the involuntary body adhesion to oppression, experienced as shame, fear and silence. Therefore, the main focus of this research is the processes by which women achieved to exercise the internal capability to speak out; as well as how this new ability has been critical in order to have transformative agency, by having a meaningful participation in planning, agency and decision-making in the different spheres of their private and public life. The main findings of this thesis arise from six month of field research. With a phenomenological and hermeneutic approach, seventeen Indigenous and ten non-Indigenous women participated through in-depth interviews and focus groups. Participatory observation and a validation workshop were also undertaken. Findings are related, first, to women’s participation in group processes, by which, on the one hand, they achieved to generate critical-reflective awareness, denaturalizing oppression, and, on the other hand, they removed embodied oppressive dispositions by retraining their bodies through dialogue and corporal techniques. Second, praxis of liberation aroused from reflection, with no need of a mechanistic plan informed by efficient and effective predetermined justifications. Praxis of liberation took the form of practical wisdom and wise judgment for the achievement of good life.

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