In this study of gender relations in late colonial Mexico (ca.
1760-1821), Steve Stern analyzes the historical connections between
gender, power, and politics in the lives of peasants, Indians, and
other marginalized peoples. Through vignettes of everyday life, he
challenges assumptions about gender relations and political culture
in a patriarchal society. He also reflects on continuity and change
between late colonial times and the present and suggests a paradigm
for understanding similar struggles over gender rights in Old
Regime societies in Europe and the Americas.
Stern pursues three major arguments. First, he demonstrates that
non-elite women and men developed contending models of legitimate
gender authority and that these differences sparked bitter
struggles over gender right and obligation. Second, he reveals
connections, in language and social dynamics, between disputes over
legitimate authority in domestic and familial matters and disputes
in the arenas of community and state power. The result is a fresh
interpretation of the gendered dynamics of peasant politics,
community, and riot. Third, Stern examines regional and
ethnocultural variation and finds that his analysis transcends
particular locales and ethnic subgroupings within Mexico. The
historical arguments and conceptual sweep of Stern's book will
inform not only students of Mexico and Latin America but also
students of gender in the West and other world regions.