Author ORCID Identifier

Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation


Arts and Sciences



First Advisor

Monica Udvardy


Across Latin America ‘development with identity’ schemes are currently widely promoted by multilateral and aid organizations; schemes based on the commercialization of heritage, which increasingly focus on impoverished ethnic minorities. As part of this trend, the Honduran state’s discourse on cultural diversity reinforces the ‘heritage-making’ (patrimonialización) of cultural minorities, their identities, and livelihoods—particularly indígena women, under the auspices of multiculturalism. However, the on-the-ground reality for indigenous Lenca communities, specifically Lenca craftswomen, participating in such initiatives, remains with some of the highest indices of poverty and vulnerability in the country. Hence, the conditions under which ‘development with identity’ benefits local communities, and indigenous women’s response to such state-sponsored engagement, are unclear.

This research ethnographically examines the semantic spaces simultaneously created by Honduran public policy, heritage commercialization, and the development industry, through which intercultural engagements take place with the indigenous feminine ‘other,’ and the consequent welfare outcomes and effects on the identity discourses and political subjectivities put forth by Lenca craftswomen.

The communities studied illustrate multifaceted, dynamic, and contradictory outcomes when it comes to the material welfare and social empowerment of Lenca women. CIALSAJOL and CIALCOYL are positioned as exemplary cooperatives that are actively engaged in community initiatives, whereas CALC is no longer as successful or recognized as it once was. The differences observed between each community have to do with Lenca craftswomen’s degree of engagement in collective work and the disposition of a workshop for crafts production. Additionally, the ready access to credit or rotating funds through the coops, the regular coop meetings, alternation of the board of directors, and the coops’ participation in local public forums also contributed to the success of each cooperative, which resulted in affiliated craftswomen’s social empowerment.

The research suggests the crafts cooperatives, as social enterprises --specifically as indigenous entrepreneurship, do not directly enhance material welfare among indigenous women. Contrary to this, the crafts cooperatives, as part and parcel of the cultural industries framework, enable structural factors that underly the conditions of time poverty, material poverty and stakeholder dependency that characterize Lenca craftswomen’s lives.

The involvement of intermediaries like Foletti, and initiatives such as PROPAITH sponsored by IHAH and foreign aid, which fomented the recognition and marketing of Lenca cultural heritage and motivated craftswomen to organize, strengthened the bases for a positive self-identification among women, as well as the reappropriation of collective Lenca identities and heritage among craftswomen and their communities. But these initiatives also contributed to organizing craftswomen’s labor and heritage for the ready commoditization and cooptation of their cultural capital and value-added differentiated cultural products, leading to the externalization of the wealth and profits generated by this cultural industry; continued dependent, subordinate, and exploitative relations with intermediaries; and threats to collective intellectual property rights through heritage governance.

Development with identity in these three communities is fraught with gendered logics that result in replicating historic colonial forms of racialized work and exploitation of labor and creating new forms of power matrices within current global economies of culture. The case studies suggest that Lenca craftswomen’s indigeneity is articulated and expressed socially and intersectionally. Gender stereotypes, roles and prescriptions are significant cross-cutting elements that inform Lenca craftswomen’s economic and social exclusions and endowments. Each craftswoman engages in recurring intercultural spaces, most as inconsistent or attenuated instances of recognition and discrimination.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

Funding Information

This study was supported by:

1. Beca de Investigación Básica para Docentes, Dirección de Investigación Científica y Posgrado, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Honduras, 2017.

2. Doctoral Dissertation Research Grant, National Science Foundation, 2017-2018.

3. Early Career Research Grant, National Geographic Society, 2018.