Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

When the rivers run backwards: Field studies and statistical analyses of campesino identity in northern Coclé province, Republic of Panama, in the face of the Panama Canal expansion
by Muller-Schwarze, Nina K., Ph.D., Tulane University, 2008, 487; 3310073
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation produces knowledge about peasants, called campesinos in the literature about Panama, living in northern Coclé province. The geographical area of northern Coclé has been redefined over time; as an indigenous reserve promised to Victoriano Lorenzo and indigenous inhabitants of the region in the early twentieth century, as national territory by the Omar Torrijos government, and, most recently, as part of the Panama Canal watershed and spatialized as an area of extreme poverty by the national government. The regional political organization and resistance movement Coordinadora Campesina Contra los Embalses (CCCE) is structured around the common identification of campesino. The CCCE employs liberation theology, and is allied with indigenous groups and the transnational Catholic Church. Contemporary identification as peasants limits residents' recognition of land rights at the national level, although ethnically they are indigenous cholos. Evidence from archival materials and oral history traces the CCCE political structure and resistance movement in a continuous and active struggle for land rights throughout many generations. Symbols such as boundary lines on maps, and images of the historical figure Victoriano Lorenzo, are used by national, business, and peasant entities to claim land.

Identity is complex and multiplex. This dissertation defines peasant identity in statistical terms using emic categories, transcending the binary categories of traditional/modern; rural/urban; and poverty/wealth used in customary peasant studies. Representative samples of campesinos from several locations in northern Coclé province are systematically interviewed. The resulting emic data are coded and analyzed statistically. Theories defining identity as a bundle of variables are used to envision identity as a multidimensional space. Factor analyses depict peasant identity as interrelated variables including age, gender, education, terms of self-identification, leadership, group membership, identification with community/village, migrations and movement, regionality/identification with the region, identification with the nation, identification as poor, awareness and understanding of the planned Canal expansion, religion, clothing, identification with land, and CCCE movement membership. A Guttman scale is developed using emic categories of poverty. The politics of development and poverty are discussed. The aim of this study is to describe identity in terms of emic perceptions, and in terms of nonobvious statistical results.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Maxwell, Judith M.
School: Tulane University
School Location: United States -- Louisiana
Source: DAI-A 69/04, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Cultural anthropology, Latin American history
Keywords: Campesino, Cocle, Coordinadora Campesina Contra los Embalses, Coordinadora Campesina Contra los Embalses (CCCE), Factor analysis, Identity, Indigenous peasants, Panama Canal, Panama Canal expansion, Spatialization of poverty
Publication Number: 3310073
ISBN: 978-0-549-58278-6
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