Restoring Anáhuac: Indigenous Genealogies and Hemispheric Republicanism in Postcolonial Mexico

The forthcoming article “Restoring Anáhuac: Indigenous Genealogies and Hemispheric Republicanism in Postcolonial Mexico” by Arturo Chang is summarized by the author below. 

Political theorists have started looking toward the “non-western” world to reassess studies in political language, international law, nation-building, revolution, and citizenship, among other areas. While this “comparative” turn has proven useful for expanding the scope, lenses, and contexts studied, marginalized groups remain largely in the background of these efforts. It is more common to study elite actors, texts, and contexts as representative of the “non-west,” an approach that risks reinforcing the interpretive biases that political theorists seek to problematize. Working from the example of Indigenous insurgency in post-colonial Mexico, this article shows that scholars could better study the political innovations of marginalized peoples by drawing on popular discursive objects such as poetry, songs, and visual objects as well as collective practices specific to the group’s sites of theorization. This approach centers plural invocations and in turn problematize the interpretive priorities that currently undergird the archive of political theory.  

More specifically, this article underscores the formative role that Indigenous groups and Indigenous genealogies played in the development of republican revolutionary thinking during Mexico’s independence movement. I argue that, by drawing from Nahuatl genealogies, Indigenous insurgents instantiated a restorative revolution—a novel understanding of revolutionary change that prioritized collective memorialization over absolute foundation. This restorative frame emerged through appeals to the return of the “Anáhuac Empire,” a narrative that connected legacies of Indigenous self-rule among the Nahuatlaca peoples with the rise of popular insurgency against the Spanish colonial state. Further, I show that the Anáhuac movement transformed the principles of republicanism in at least three ways. First by organizing around Catholic identities and thus defining republican fraternity as characteristically religious. This is especially apparent via Indigenous coalitions that formed around mestizo-religious symbols like the Lady of Guadalupe. Second, by centering plebeian demands for the redistribution of property, abolition of racial inequalities, and the protection of Indigenous rights of belonging to the land. And third, by defining citizenship in hemispheric terms—as a project by and for all Americanos born in the New World. These commitments to hemispheric republicanism appeared formally in the 1814 Constitution of Apatzingán, the first document to declare Mexican independence and which offered equal citizenship to all people born in the Americas. Thus, the Anáhuac project problematizes dominant interpretations of foundation as a secular, national, and elite-oriented enterprise. Tracing Indigenous insurgency in post-colonial Mexico offers an important example of the ways popular thinking and marginalized actors in the Americas transformed the politics of republican revolution usually attributed to Europe and the “western tradition.”   

About the Author: Arturo Chang is an Assistant Professor of Political Theory at the University of Toronto. His research “Restoring Anáhuac: Indigenous Genealogies and Hemispheric Republicanism in Postcolonial Mexico” is now available in Early View and will appear in a forthcoming issue of the American Journal of Political Science. 

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The American Journal of Political Science (AJPS) is the flagship journal of the Midwest Political Science Association and is published by Wiley.

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