Performing Shifting Identities: Mayan Embroidery, Migration and Tourism in the Eastern Yucatán

Giannetto, Claudia. 2018. Performing Shifting Identities: Mayan Embroidery, Migration and Tourism in the Eastern Yucatán. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

Based on 14 months of ethnographic fieldwork conducted in a Mayan community of the Eastern Yucatán, this thesis explores the intersection of gender, culture and globalization processes as reflected in embroidery production and trade in this area of the Mexican Republic. Taking gender as a central axis of identity and agency and as a structuring feature of social processes, I specifically discuss the impact of tourism and development programs on embroidery’s related practices and, most importantly, on gender identities.

Drawing from the experiences of twenty-five Mayan women associated with a state-funded cooperative, I explore direct and indirect impacts of paid work in women’s lives and status, situating their productive experiences within particular configurations of kinship and community. In order to illuminate the relation between female involvement in embroidery production, men’s migration, and household, I assess the extent to which the incorporation in cooperative is associated with particular demographic and social patterns, and how these patterns shape the outcomes of women’s participation in the labour force. Integral to this analysis is the exploration of the attitudes of women towards their jobs as embroiderers and cooperative members, considerations of the dimension of gender embodied in embroidery production and trade, and the degree to which the very nature of this activity contributes to continuity or change in prevailing gender ideologies.

My aim is to understand whether or not the participation in cooperative is facilitating the emergence of a (new) labour identity for Mayan women, and whether this process is engendering any form of empowerment (economic, psychological and/or social) for the embroiderers.

The film Cuéntame accompanies this dissertation.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

Identification Number (DOI):


Maya, Yucatán, embroidery, production, trade, cooperatives, migration, tourism, women’s empowerment, gender, ethnographic film.

Departments, Centres and Research Units:



30 September 2018

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

24 Oct 2018 10:53

Last Modified:

07 Sep 2022 17:14


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