Indigenous Peoples and Self-Determined Development: the Case of Community Enterprises in Chiapas

Giovannini, Michela (2014) Indigenous Peoples and Self-Determined Development: the Case of Community Enterprises in Chiapas. PhD thesis, University of Trento.

PDF - Doctoral Thesis


Most exogenous developmental models have not provided satisfactory results in indigenous settings. The resulting development policies have contributed to the expropriation of indigenous territories and to the indiscriminate exploitation of natural resources, that have led to a generalized worsening of indigenous peoples’ living conditions. The expression “development aggression” has been coined to describe the violation of indigenous individual and collective rights during development processes that have been imposed top-down rather than shared and implemented with the communities involved. Against this background, several studies have pinpointed the role of indigenous entrepreneurship in sustaining endogenous development processes. Due to the low number of empirical studies supporting this proposition, this research aims at contributing to the debate, claiming that community enterprises are an effective vehicle for an indigenous self- determined process of development. More specifically, these grassroots entrepreneurial initiatives appear able to sustain an indigenous conception of well-being that has recently entered the Latin American debate on development. This conception, named buen vivir, emphasizes the importance of indigenous culture, the natural environment, and collective well-being. Based on a multidisciplinary approach that draws on entrepreneur- ship, economic sociology, anthropology, and development studies, the re- search combines theoretical and empirical approaches. An ethnographic study has been carried out in the first half of 2012 and has investigated sixteen self-managed community enterprises that have been founded by indigenous Mayan communities in the Mexican state of Chiapas. The fieldwork has been based on in-depth semi-structured interviews, as well as direct observation and analysis of secondary sources. The focus is on identifying the enabling factors that have supported the emergence of these enterprises and the impact they have had on improving indigenous peoples’ well-being. The main findings pinpoint the existence of some enabling factors for the emergence of community enterprises in the indigenous context, that have to be found in the indigenous cultural resources on which they are based, in the linkages they hold with social movements, and in the situation of social and economic stress of the context in which they are embedded. The research has also highlighted that in the context ana- lyzed community enterprises maintain some specific characteristics: they have a civic origin, thus they are not externally driven; they pursue a plurality of goals, which are not only social and economic, but also political, cultural and environmental; they have a participatory governance, based on equality among members and on democratic principles; and an entrepreneurial dimension that is explicitly aimed at pursuing social objectives through the continuous production of goods or services. These four characteristics explain the contribution that community enterprises can offer in supporting alternative approaches to development, where local communities are actors of their own development processes.

Item Type:Doctoral Thesis (PhD)
Doctoral School:Local Development and Global Dynamics (within the School in Social Sciences, till the a.y. 2010-11)
PhD Cycle:XXV
Subjects:Area 13 - Scienze economiche e statistiche > SECS-P/08 ECONOMIA E GESTIONE DELLE IMPRESE
Area 14 - Scienze politiche e sociali > SPS/09 SOCIOLOGIA DEI PROCESSI ECONOMICI E DEL LAVORO
Repository Staff approval on:08 May 2014 14:46

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