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Response to Review no. 238

I am grateful to be given the opportunity to reply to Katie Willis’s review of my book, Class, Ethnicity, and Community in Southern Mexico: Oaxaca’s Peasantries (Oxford University Press, 2001). In my opinion, the structure of the book is given insufficient treatment, so that the reader of the review has little sense of the scope of the work. I should like, therefore, to emphasise that the book has three components. The background, in two chapters, is devoted to the historical foundations of Oaxaca’s peasantries, and covers the period 1520-1920, when the revolution ended and land reform began, and 1920-1970, when Mexico began to move away from repression of socio-political dissent. This is followed by three linked chapters, dealing with peasants, commercialisation and urbanisation, which rest upon the historical foundations and cover the period from 1970 to the present. The three final chapters, which relate strongly to one another and back to the material basis of life discussed in the middle section, are also devoted to the last three decades, and focus on ethnicity, community and politics. The conclusion considers the empirical evidence in relation to theories about peasantry, class, ethnicity, community and migration, and shows how ‘real world’ circumstances in Oacaxa have been determined since the Mexican revolution by the role of the state.

When your readers have digested the previous paragraph (or, better still, the book), they will realise that the review de-emphasises the historical chronology and cross-chapter integration of the data. I am, of course, pleased that Willis found the book ‘fascinating’, but am by no means clear why. Surely, the task of a reviewer is to evaluate a book in the context of a field of research rather than to pick out small disagreements which, were they all sustained, would hardly detract from its achievements. May I invite your readers to examine the book, then the review, and to reflect on the value added by the latter?