Date Available


Year of Publication


Document Type



Arts and Sciences



First Advisor

John Paul Jones III

Second Advisor

Susan Roberts


In the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca, many indigenous communities further their struggles for greater political and cultural autonomy by working with transnational non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Communication technology (what I call comtech) is increasingly vital to these intersecting socio-spatial relations of activism and advocacy. In this dissertation, I examine how comtech offer indigenous individuals and organizations with the means for visualizing their political-cultural agendas. Approaching the access and use of comtech, especially video technologies, as a partial and situated technoscience, I inquire into how and why these activities reconfigure the production and evaluation of authoritative knowledge about indigenous peoples, places, and practices. More specifically, I undertook an organizational ethnography of a small intermediary NGO comprised of individuals who self-identify as indigenous and others who do not, Ojo de Agua Comunicacin Indgena, which endeavors to place communication technologies (especially video equipment) at the disposal of indigenous communities. Through participation-observation and interviews, I explored this groups everyday strategies of networking in the name of assisting indigenous actors access and appropriation of visual technologies. I also pursued interpretive analyses of video-mediated articulations of indigenous knowledge and identity that were enabled by Ojo de Agua. My research indicates that Ojo de Agua has selectively built upon the ambitions and the socio-spatial connections of a government program that emerged from the initiatives of academic advocates, who sought to open new spaces of participation for indigenous peoples. Members of Ojo de Agua have, however, found their goal of service somewhat stymied by a situation that positions them within a flexible labor force of knowledge workers. Their livelihoods as media makers did not allow them (the time or money) to pursue as much altruism and advocacy as they would have liked. Nonetheless, Ojo de Aguas corpus of videos established the group as an alternative and yet authoritative source of visual knowledge of indigenous peoples, places, and practices. This relocation of advocacy is symptomatic of the creative destruction fueled by the neo-liberal economic policies that, for the last thirty years, have been reconfiguring spaces of cooperation and conflict in Latin America.



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.