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Comandanta Zapatista Esther at the Mexican Federal Congress: Performance as politics

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This article addresses a recent instance of transformed communicative behaviour within the Mexican heavily ritualized and tightly controlled parliamentary scene. The Zapatismo, a new (sort of) political actor — of indigenous, armed, rebellious status — managed to be asked, in March, 2001, to the Legislative Power stage, to expound their visions and aims, a propos a project of law on indigenous rights. The strategic impact of their public intervention was considerable, given that the visitors’ discursive (scenic) strategy on the occasion was remarkably proficient. They provided a renewed instance of creative political communication in official scenarios, still managing not to lose the ethnic bases (senses, demands) of the 1994 uprising. Comandanta Esther acted as spokesperson, and her performance is the focus of the present analysis. A multidisciplinary approach is advocated and case-shown. A close reading is applied to the evidence (of mixed character), drawing from discursive, semiotic, visual and anthropological sources. It is an attempt to blend, for best descriptive and interpretive results, various angles of qualitative approaches for the (improved) understanding of a documented instance of political performance. Some ideas concerning the political value of ritualized, symbolic processes, such as the ones mobilized by the Zapatistas, are also briefly explored.
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Keywords: body; ethnography; eye-contact; parliamentary discourse; semiotics; stage; symbolic processes; voice; women

Document Type: Miscellaneous

Affiliations: CIESAS, Mexico City

Publication date: January 1, 2003

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