Census Making and the Interstitial Emergence of Ethnoracial Political Fields in Latin America: The Case of Mexico’s Intercensal Survey of 2015

Juan D. Delgado, University of Michigan

By the 2000 census round, most Latin American states have included questions about race and ethnicity promoting the demographic visibility of Afrodescendent populations. As in other latitudes, the demographic visibility of ethnoracial categories was both an outcome of political processes of mobilization and a starting point for new political articulations. Although scholars have long focused on census making as a site for state-formation and nation-making processes, they have rarely focused on demographic enumeration as an emergent political space for categorical politics. In an attempt to transcend the divide between "state-centric" and "society-centric" approaches, I study the inclusion of ethnoracial questions in Latin American censuses as a case of the interstitial emergence of ethnoracial political fields in the region. Drawing from archival records, official documents, in-depth interviews, and ethnographic observation, I examine the categorical politics around the design and application of the first official instrument to enumerate people of African descent in Mexico: the Intercensal Survey of 2015. I argue that the political space of ethnoracial politics emerges from the confluence of international organizations, internationally-attuned government agencies, publicly-oriented anthropological institutes, and Afromexican organizations from the Costa Chica of Oaxaca and Guerrero. As this field evolves, actors face the dilemmas of recognizing either internationally valid categories that are not locally understood or locally-embedded categories that fail to reflect broader ethnoracial inequalities. The Mexican case raises questions about ethnoracial categories to be measured in the 2020 census round in Latin America.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 224. Expertise IV: The Politics of Data