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Global South Powers in Transition

A Comparative Analysis of Mexico and South Africa


Edited By Deon Geldenhuys and Humberto González

Employing a novel collaborative transnational methodology, this ground-breaking book presents the first comprehensive and systematic comparison of Mexico and South Africa. Although geographically, historically and diplomatically far apart, Mexico and South Africa are ambitious and influential powers in the Global South and also experience wide-ranging domestic transitions. A binational team of 26 researchers from the two countries, all specialists in their respective disciplines, probe the transitions that Mexico and South Africa are undergoing in areas such as socio-cultural diversity, domestic politics, economic development, labour dynamics, social and territorial inequality, food security, crime and violence, and foreign relations. The detailed country studies allow the authors to identify striking similarities but also profound differences between the two societies. In so doing, the book helps to explain Mexico and South Africa to each other but also to the world at large.

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CHAPTER 1 Socio-cultural diversity: the struggle for nation and citizenship



Socio-cultural diversity: the struggle for nation and citizenship

General introduction

Guillermo de la Peña and Gretchen du Plessis

As part of the overall critical interrogation of recent transformations experienced by Mexico and South Africa, this chapter is envisaged as a critique of the dominant paradigms of globalisation argued from the vantage point of the histories of the countries of the Global South. In doing so, the idea is to foreground a critique of existing hierarchies of power that offer limited options for “emerging” countries and groups. To a large extent, such hierarchies are legacies of a colonial epistemology that devised racialised and ethnicised categories in a world defined by maps of economic and political inequality. Colonialism linked both countries to a global order and has partially conditioned their social representations and possibilities for change.

In our argument, the rich diversity of languages, religions, cultures and traditions in Mexico and South Africa is juxtaposed with attempts to forge a national identity as democratic societies. In both societies, however, indigenous status and economic dispossession intersect for large sections of the population to produce layers of deprivation on the one hand and enclaves of the privileged on the other. Moreover, colonialism codified ethnicities through policies of segregation and legal subjection. The two societies are now multicultural democracies in the constitutional sense,1 but the establishment of true social and cultural pluralism poses particular challenges.

In Mexico, the agrarian...

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