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Modest Expectations: Gender and Property Rights in Urban Mexico

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This article examines gender and property in Guadalajara, Mexico, in the light of debates that oppose formal title to the social embeddedness of rights in customary law and assert that titling is bad for women. The article focuses on urban homes, private property, and civil law but finds that qualities regarded as characterizing customary property relations also shape popular understandings of property in urban Mexico. Discussion groups and social surveys in four low-income neighborhoods addressed two aspects of family law and property: whose name should appear on titles, and who should inherit the home. The results show that women, as wives, sisters, and daughters, have a secondary relationship to property. They also suggest that the opposition of individual title to socially embedded rights is a false dichotomy and that generalizing arguments about formalization and especially the negative gender implications of titling risks replicating the universalizing tendencies of Western property models.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: UCL (University College London).

Publication date: March 1, 2010


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