Becoming (M)other: Political economy and maternal transition in urban Chiapas

  • Jack Lopez

Student thesis: Phd


Based upon fieldwork in San Cristóbal de Las Casas, Chiapas, South East Mexico, this thesis is about how mestiza women in a low-income barrio become mothers. As such, it is an engagement with theories of embodiment, maternal subjectivity, transformation of self and gendered modernities. The chapters are intended to evoke discussion around the roles that mestiza women, the wider Mexican society and the state play in simultaneously embracing and rejecting constructed notions of the good mother. Competing notions of good motherhood come about through local practices and ideals, and also through discourses of risk and global health. The thesis is structured so that the corporeal processes of maternity (pregnancy, birth and nurturing) provide a common and interlinking theme which also demonstrate maternal transition as a life event akin to others. In doing so, this thesis is ultimately about the way in which gendered beings experience change.I intend this thesis to be both a political and theoretical project which highlights the lives of a community of women in a particular moment in their history. This thesis provides further evidence for the need to formulate new global theories of change that foreground gender in global processes. The women I met during fieldwork, and whose narratives have shaped the direction of this thesis, show that when individuals have recourse to a mixed economy of health care and are not reliant on state intervention, it can result in an outcome that better meets with the woman's expectations. Women's combined use of lay and clinical services reveal ways in which they make active attempts to avoid negative pre and postnatal experiences. In doing so, they embody a maternal identity that is deeply rooted in local ways of being-in-the-world. By managing the process of maternity more akin to local ways of thinking about gendered personhood, the women reveal how social change is both assimilated and contested in daily life.  
Date of Award31 Dec 2016
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorJeanette Edwards (Supervisor) & Anthony Simpson (Supervisor)


  • Mexico
  • Chiapas
  • Political Economy
  • Motherhood
  • Transformation of Self

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