- Catherine Whittaker
- Edinburgh UK EH8 9LD
- Research Interests
- Gender, and Violence, Mexico, Mesoamerica, Nahuatl, cosmology, Intersectionality, Catholicism, Marginality, Religion And Ritual, Politics of Indigeneity, affect and emotion, love
Warrior Women: Contested Understandings of Violence and Gender in Highland Mexico
An inexorable drug war, grisly Juárez femicides, and the haunting memory of conquest, colonialism, and revolution have shaped Mexico’s image as a place of violence. Yet what exactly are we labelling as “violence,” and is it necessarily bad?
This dissertation ethnographically explores how indigenous Mexicans understand violence against women.
Social scientists have typically defined violence in terms of power inequalities, and development agencies have sought to “empower” indigenous women to address these. Instead, many people of Milpa Alta in the rural southern Highlands of Mexico City define violence in terms of its affective qualities and aspire to be “defenders” and “warriors.”
This ethnography examines the inherent link between four topics of particular salience in the region, which are also of increasing interest in anthropology and related disciplines: violence, affect, religion, and power. It combines cosmology-focused (e.g. Harris 1998) and intersectional feminist anthropological approaches (e.g. Hernandez 2015) to studying violence against indigenous women to produce a nuanced portrayal that does justice to difference without exploiting the “exotic.” In an interconnected world, we are already implicated in each others' lives (Mohanty 2002).
2018 PhD in Social Anthropology, The University of Edinburgh
2013 MSc in Social Anthropology, The London School of Economics
2012 MSc in Cognitive & Evolutionary Anthropology, The University of Oxford
2011 BA in Latin American Studies & Anthropology of the Americas, The University of Bonn, Germany (Minor in Egyptology)
Recent Awards & Grants
2018 Sutasoma Award of the Royal Anthropological Institute
2017 Research student-led special project grant for "Introducing Occult Anthropology: An Anthropology of Religion Symposium", University of Edinburgh
2016 Emerging Leader in Anthropology Award (NASA), American Anthropological Association (mentored by Prof. Lila Abu-Lughod, Columbia University)
2016 People's Choice Award, 3-Minute Thesis Competiton, SSPS, University of Edinburgh
2015 Scholarship for Visiting Scholars, Mexican Foreign Office (SRE)
2014 SSPS Special Award in Anthropology, University of Edinburgh
Dec. 2017 Accredited as Associate Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.
Social Anthropology 1A: The Life Course (SCAN08013) - tutor (1st year Undergraduate)
Anthropological Theory (SCAN10022) - guest lecturer and tutor (3rd year Undergraduate/Honours)
Latin American Anthropology (SCAN10069) - guest lecturer and tutor (3rd year Undergraduate/Honours)
Ritual and Religion (SCAN10023) - guest lecturer and tutor (3rd year Undergraduate/Honours)
Fundamentals: Studying Anthropology (SCAN08007) - in-class teaching assistant (1st year Undergraduate)
In review. Article "How to Know Nature: Weaving Affect into Highland Mexican conservationism." American Ethnologist.
2018 (forthc.) Working paper "The politics of rights and violence in Central Mexico." Proceedings of the Trilateral Workshop, How can anthropology contribute to affirmative action in South America in fields of human rights, gender equality and environmental sustainability? in Montevideo, Uruguay, 20th-24th February 2017.
2017 Book chapter "Suckling the snake: Motherly goddess worship and serpent symbolism among contemporary Nahua in Milpa Alta, Mexico." In Maternità e politeismi/ Motherhood(s) and polytheism, ed. by G. Pedrucci, F. Pasche Guignard, and M. Scapini, pp. 505-514. Bologna: Pàtron.
June 2016 Article Sahagún reloaded? The priest, his pyramid, and deliberate syncretism in Milpa Alta. Mexicon: Journal of Mesoamerican Studies, 38(2): 33-35, peer-reviewed.
Jan. 2016 Review American Anthropological Kinship: 114th American Anthropological Association annual meeting, Denver, Colorado, 17-22 November 2015.” Anthropology Today 31(1): 28.
May 2018 Seminar "Dialogical Cosmopolitics: Rethinking violence, gender, and indigeneity in Highland Mexico." Centre for Latin American and Caribbean Studies, University of Newcastle, UK.
April 2018 Paper "Beyond victims: VAW, local concepts, and spiritual warriorhood." Society for Applied Anthropology Annual Meeting, Philadelphia, PA, USA.
May 2017 Paper "Analytical Haunting: An Ethnographic Journey in Central Mexico." CASCA/IUAES Conference, University of Ottawa, Canada.
Apr. 2017 Paper "Dead or Alive? Femicide, haunting, and the spectrality of analytical categories in Central Mexico." Introducing Occult Anthropology: An Anthropology of Religion Symposium, University of Edinburgh, UK.
Sep. 2016 Paper "Good vs. Bad Speakers: Language Ownership in the Face of Language Death." Indigenous Languages and Cultures Conference, University of Sheffield, UK.
August 2016 Poster "Do we know what violence is?" Maurice Halbwachs Summer Institute Crime, Dis/Order, Narrative, led by Jean and John Comaroff, Lichtenberg-Kolleg Goettingen, Germany.
July 2016 Paper "Of Virgins, Vipers, and Witches: Dangerous Motherhood in Central Mexican Cosmology Today." EASA Conference, University of Milan-Bicocca, Italy.
July 2016 Paper "The violence of interpretation: Pitfalls and opportunities of anthropological interventions in the violence-against-women conversation." ASA Conference, University of Durham, UK.
Mar. 2016 Paper “A dysfunctional democracy? Local elections, identity, and magic in Mexico.” CCLAS Latin American Symposium “Democracy”, University of Edinburgh, UK.
Nov. 2015 Paper “Battered or battling? Contested constructions of gender violence among Nahuatl speakers of Central Mexico.” 114th American Anthropological Association annual meeting, Denver, CO, USA.
Oct. 2015 Paper “Gender violence: a universal phenomenon?” (in Spanish) IV. ALA Conference of the Latin American Anthropological Association, Mexico City.
Feb. 2017 - present Founding member, Comoveras (trilingual, international anthropological affect writing group).
Nov. 2017 Co-organiser, Scottish Training in Anthropological Research 3 workshop: Decolonizing Anthropology, University of Edinburgh, UK. (Compiled relevant research and led workshop group to create a decolonial anthropology podcast to be featured on forthcoming website.)
Apr. 2017 Main organiser, Introducing Occult Anthropology: An Anthropology of Religion Symposium, University of Edinburgh, UK.
Oct. 2016 - 2018 PhD representative for Anthropology, University of Edinburgh. (Lobbied for the introduction of various measures towards improving the safety of research students during fieldwork, including the creation of a forthcoming Fieldwork Crisis Fund.)
Aug. 2017 Seminar presentation "Evidence and where to find it: 6 findings about social work research in Scotland, 2014-2017." Scottish Government, UK.
May-Aug. 2017 SGSSS Intern (paid) "Social Services Research Support", Scottish Government, UK.
Sep. 2016 Review "Utopias of Crime: Review of the Maurice Halbwachs Summer Institute 2016.” Allegra Lab: Anthropology, Law, Art, World blog http://allegralaboratory.net/utopias-of-crime-review-of-the-maurice-halbwachs-summer-institute-2016/
June 2016 Article "The Aztecs are back! Paradoxes of deliberate syncretism in Mexican Catholicism today." Mexicolore, educational website http://www.mexicolore.co.uk/aztecs/spanish-conquest/the-aztecs-are-back
Dec. 2015 Presentation “‘Victims’ or ‘fighters’? Suggestions for re-imagining strategies to counter gender violence from the cosmovision” (in Spanish) at a public symposium on the prevention of violence against women and children, organised by Inmujeres (Women’s Institute) in Tecómitl, Mexico City.
Aug. 2014 Essay “The gift of life: a soldier’s death as sacrifice.” IANS: It Ain’t Necessarily So, collaborative social science blog for the general public (+25,000 views) http://www.itaintnecessarilyso.org/articles/2014/08/20/the-gift-of-life-a-soldiers-death-as-sacrifice
Sep. 2010 Intern (paid), Cosmo TV, WDR (West German Broadcasting Network), Cologne, Germany: co-authored reports on “Islamophobia” and “Russian Mafia” for television programme on immigration (~ 130,000 viewers)
2008- 2009 Junior Editor (paid), <du-machst.de> online magazine, “Europe & the World”-, section, BPB (Central Political Education Agency), Bonn, Germany: attended workshops, supervised authors, wrote articles, and uploaded content