5969 - The materialisation of tranquilidad: building domestic safety in southeastern Mexico.

This paper draws from ethnographic research in the city of Chetumal, Quintana Roo, to explore how Mexicans express their aspirations for safety and familial success through domestic material culture. The focus of the paper is upon middle class consumers, who form a large part of the urban population in comparison to other Mexican cities, including many middle class migrants from other parts of Mexico. In Chetumal, such migrants typically seek a lifestyle characterised by stable employment, a lack of violence, and larger, more comfortable houses. I explore this last characterisation in some detail, examining the role of key consumer goods, especially television sets and air-conditioners, in materialising desirable domestic environments. I argue that these technologies enable a retreat from the social life of the street, which in Latin America is often imagined as the space of the urban poor, and produce a material space which encourages young people in particular to spend much of their time within the household, which forms both a refuge and a fortress against the environmental and social hazards of the outside world. In keeping with the symposium topic, I consider how local communities in Chetumal deploy televisions and air-conditioners to respond to national discourses of crime and danger in Mexico, as they work towards an alternative imagined national community of middle class consumer-citizens.

Keywords: material culture, television, Mexico, domesticity, middle class

Author: Pertierra, Anna Cristina (University of Queensland, Australia / Australien)


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