Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Degree

Doctor of Philosophy

Program

Anthropology

Supervisor

Dr. A Kim Clark

Abstract

This dissertation examines the everyday work of schoolteachers in post-coup Honduras from the theoretical perspective that they are individuals with a vested interest in the state, who reflect upon their own experiences when carrying out the vital state service of national public education, and while acting as leaders of the anti-coup National Front of Popular Resistance. This movement emerged in response to the violent overthrow of the country’s democratically-elected president in June 2009 and has since broadened its agenda, calling for the ‘re-foundation’ of the Honduran state by rewriting the constitution.

Yet state formation occurs not only through such formal projects but also through everyday activities. Based on extended ethnographic fieldwork in 2012 in the southern Department of Valle, I explore how schoolteachers from one region act upon their visions for what the Honduran state could be, while navigating the first full school year during reforms to the education sector that aim to decentralize and privatize the country’s national public education system, while disciplining teachers and reducing their already meagre salaries and benefits. This anthropological study of state formation, based on the contradictory ways that people engage governing policies and state projects, illuminates how schoolteachers actively reject the neoliberal spirit of these reforms, even though they are the people responsible for implementing these policies in practice. By comparing and contrasting the experiences of teachers working in rural and urban areas, whose schools must now compete among themselves for funding from municipal governments and private entities, I examine how teachers seek solutions to the unequal distribution of education resources, while defending the validity of state services in general, even when the post-coup government has reduced its own commitment to that project.

This research challenges understandings of the state as a monolithic entity by asking who is responsible for policy implementation, and how do they approach their work when they disagree with the policies they are supposed to implement. I suggest that ethnographic research can illuminate the contradictory nature of state projects, and argue that popular resistance to neoliberal governing policies in post-coup Honduras is also occurring from within the state.


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