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Gender and Belonging: The Political Engagement of Mexican Migrant Leaders in Chicago

Schütze, Stephanie

Sociologus, Vol. 67 (2017), Iss. 2: pp. 151–169

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Univ.-Prof. Dr. Stephanie Schütze, Freie Universität Berlin, Lateinamerika-Institut, Rüdesheimer Str. 54–56, 14197 Berlin

Abstract

The article explores differences in the motivation for political engagement in a transnational context according to gender. The underlying ethnographic research reveals that the majority of Chicago’s Mexican migrant leaders – male and female – are simultaneously engaged in various political and civil society organisations; they are not only members of hometown associations and Mexican political parties, but also participate in nationwide US Latino organisations, immigrant organisations, human rights organisations and even in Mexican and US government institutions.

In the article the political trajectories of four Mexican migrant leaders from Chicago are presented in short biographical portraits. The biographical approach shows the difference in life experience that formed these male and female leaders. For the men the motivation to become politically engaged is rooted in the sentiment of belonging to and being recognised in a community of origin. Therefore, male migrant leaders are deeply involved in community politics in Mexico. The motivation of the female leaders presented here is different: for them the recognition in their community and country of origin is not as important as it is for the men. Their political motivation is based much more on the feeling of belonging to the migrant community in Chicago and on improving their living conditions in the United States. Their concerns are fair conditions in everyday life in the United States – in education, health care and at work, as well as in terms of immigration status or with respect to gender equality in migrant organisations.