Book: Singing for the Dead

Singing for the Dead: The Politics of Indigenous Revival in Mexico. 2013. Durham: Duke
University Press

Singing for the Dead chronicles ethnic revival in Oaxaca, Mexico, where new forms of singing and writing in the local Mazatec indigenous language are producing powerful, transformative political effects. Paja Faudree argues for the inclusion of singing as a necessary component in the polarized debates about indigenous orality and literacy, and she considers how the coupling of literacy and song has allowed people from the region to create texts of enduring social resonance. She examines how local young people are learning to read and write in Mazatec as a result of the region’s new Day of the Dead song contest. Faudree also studies how tourist interest in local psychedelic mushrooms has led to their commodification, producing both opportunities and challenges for songwriters and others who represent Mazatec culture. She situates these revival movements within the contexts of Mexico and Latin America, as well as the broad, hemisphere-wide movement to create indigenous literatures. Singing for the Dead provides a new way to think about the politics of ethnicity, the success of social movements, and the limits of national belonging.

  • Winner of the 2014 book prize awarded by the American Anthropological Association’s Society for Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology Section.
  • Named a Choice Outstanding Academic Title by the American Library Association.

Faudree’s book represents an important contribution
to empirically founded discussions of the role of artistic
practice in linguistic revitalization. In her rich portrait of
grassroots initiatives in symbiotic relation with national ethnic demands, Faudree gives us reasons to feel hopeful about the future of indigenous literacy efforts in Mexico
.” – Genner Llanes-Ortíz, American Anthropologist 117(3)

Faudree has succeeded brilliantly in her stated goals of exploring “the locus of social unity, competing ideas about and attitudes towards ethnic identity generally and Mexican indigeneity in particular, and the politics and price of belonging and not belonging.” – Chris Goertzen, Multilingua 2014 (73):2/3