Rihan Yeh, Dick, Hilary Parsons: Words of Passage. National Longing and the Imagined Lives of Mexican Migrants. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2018. 283 pp. ISBN 978-​1-​4773-​1402-​9. Price: $ 23.99 in:

Anthropos, page 207 - 208

Anthropos, Volume 115 (2020), Issue 1, ISSN: 0257-9774, ISSN online: 0257-9774,

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rimentado por la mayoría de los agricultores del sur de Chile. Sin embargo, estos reclamos pueden apoyar espe‐ ranzas y prácticas de reactivación de aquellas conexio‐ nes con la tierra sobre las cuales se construyen las onto‐ logías mapuche” (200). Juan Javier Rivera Andía ( Dick, Hilary Parsons: Words of Passage. National Longing and the Imagined Lives of Mexican Migrants. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2018. 283 pp. ISBN 978-1-4773-1402-9. Price: $ 23.99 In “Words of Passage,” Dick turns the questions of social scientific migration research on their head by looking away from so-called receiving societies like the United States and refocusing our sights on how imagi‐ naries of moral mobility constitute social worlds within Mexico – how “getting ahead” links with and delinks from migration to the United States in ways that perva‐ sively filter, inform, and ultimately shape people’s lives whether they ever go north or not. The twining of social and geographic senses of mobility, as well as the ten‐ sions between them, runs through the book as a thread drawing together a long history of Mexican state dis‐ courses (reviewed in chap. 1) and the everyday “migra‐ tion talk” through which the inhabitants of Uriangato, Guanajuato, hash through their own life choices past and future, those of the people around them, and, cru‐ cially, their own and others’ standing as ethico-moral human beings in light of their trajectories. Consistently, Dick points out how migration talk can controvert the marginalizing effects of state discourses, even as it by and large reproduces the same moral expectations and, hence, the speakers’ own exclusion, as working-class people, from full citizenship and national belonging – a double bind of estrangement and desire captured by the phrase “national longing” in the book’s title. The argu‐ ment is, thus, a far-reaching one that goes beyond mi‐ gration to reexamine, through it, the hierarchical order‐ ing of Mexican national society. As indicated by the title, this fresh perspective is made possible thanks to its underpinnings in linguistic anthropology. While Dick’s articles are often more tech‐ nical, the book is framed to be widely accessible to scholars and readers interested in migration; in this, chapter 2 is a wonderfully valuable introduction to lin‐ guistic anthropological fieldwork methods that, rooted in the ethnographic particularities of Uriangato, will not fail to hold the specialist’s attention either. Just so, the book’s accessibility in general is no compromise. Far from the vagueness with which imaginaries can some‐ times be used, this key concept is grounded in rigorous analysis of how migration talk knits the present interac‐ tion between concrete individuals (many of Dick’s in‐ terviews are group conversations) with “counterpoint lives” against or in tandem with which people shape their own ethico-moral stances. Chapters 3, 4, and 5 all feature detailed analyses of transcribed materials, even as they treat us to a broad anthropological take on genres of interaction, gendered social roles, and cultural concepts key to grasping ethico-moral sensibilities in Uriangato. Migration talk, Dick shows, is by no means a narrow category here. It comes up in a huge range of settings and touches on all the most essential and com‐ pelling issues that Dick’s interlocutors find themselves up against in life: work, education, love, marriage, childrearing, homebuilding, Catholic religiosity (chaps. 3 and 5 are specifically dedicated to the last two). All of these themes feature throughout “Words of Passage.” To be clear, Dick’s contribution does not just lie in the way she repeatedly brings linguistic anthropological insights to bear on major topics to effectively and sim‐ ply reformulate them (for instance, in demonstrating how ethico-moral personhood must be understood as a collaborative interactional achievement, rather than as the outcome of an interior process of decision-making). Instead, the book’s contribution rests on the way in which it develops a linguistic anthropological frame‐ work strongly shaped by work on migrant-receiving so‐ cieties, that sought to challenge assimilationist narra‐ tives of immigration. By looking at how nonmigrant speakers in Mexico refract themselves through lives imagined elsewhere, Dick takes discussions of social in‐ dexicality, as a fundamental mechanism for the mainte‐ nance of national social orders, to a new level of intrica‐ cy and precision. At the same time, she vivifies these discussions by emphasizing how the usual language of “identity” and “positioning” is insufficient for capturing the on-the-spot contentiousness and processual openendedness of migration talk. It is through this careful at‐ tention to how talk as practice constitutes social rela‐ tions and life possibilities that Dick is able to argue that migration has been no failure of the Mexican state, but has effectively been harnessed by it not just as an in‐ come generator, as has oft been pointed out, but in the very reproduction of the national social order. “Words of Passage” makes a linguistic anthropologi‐ cal intervention into today’s pressing scholarly and pub‐ lic debates on migration that absolutely cannot be ig‐ nored. Yet the approach it develops also promises be‐ yond questions of migration. In this account, the strongest dialogical relation shaping Uriangatenses’ imaginaries of moral mobility is with the state; in this small industrial city, little room seems left for more het‐ eroglossic formulations. Little room seems left for alter‐ native nationalisms or visions of “the people” (el pueblo) that might break more firmly or dangerously from the state-led discourses on modernization that, however problematic, remain broadly compatible with Uriangato’s profoundly Catholic, profoundly family-ori‐ ented, and socially conservative sensibilities. The trans‐ gressive potentials of mobility, that is, are strongly po‐ liced here. As far as “getting ahead” without migrating, organized crime, with all its ethico-moral conundrums, does not seem to have made a dent at the time of Dick’s research – but it is not hard to see how “Words of Pas‐ sage’s” analytic framework could well serve in an inno‐ vative exploration of how the narco economy (simply to Book Reviews 207 Anthropos 115.2020 take an example within Mexico) is reshaping imaginar‐ ies of mobility, the national longing they foment, and the very relationship between state and nation. Rihan Yeh ( Diel, Lori Boornazian: The Codex Mexicanus. A Guide to Life in Late Sixteenth-Century New Spain. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2018. 216 pp. ISBN 978-1-4773-1673-3. Price: $ 55.00 This book is highly welcome as a first-time documen‐ tation and in-depth analysis of the Codex Mexicanus, which as one of many native manuscripts was produced in colonial times in New Spain (geographically equiva‐ lent to present-day Mexico) and finally ended up in European libraries. The Codex Mexicanus, consisting of 102 pages of information conveyed in native painting tradition and hieroglyphic signs as well as in alphabetic Nahuatl writing, was made of native bark paper, stored in a screenfold fashion and, some time later on, bound like a book. As the author states in her “Epilogue” (164–166), the Mexicanus – which is the short name the author gives the manuscript – initially remained in na‐ tive hands for almost two hundred years. It may have been used and consulted by the so-called wise man (tla‐ matinime) before it was acquired. From the person who acquired it the manuscript may have been passed on to the hands of Antonio León y Gama before 1802 and then on to the hands of Father José Antonio Pichardo. After Pichardo’s death in 1812, parts of his collection returned to the heirs of Antonio León y Gama who then may have sold the Mexicanus to Joseph Maria Alexis Aubin in the 1830 s. A few years later, in Paris, the book was one of those which Aubin sold to Eugene Goupil, whose widow donated it to the Bibliothèque nationale de France, which is still home to the Mexicanus today (164, 166). Diel, who is a professor of art history, provides such useful information at the end of her book, which is in line with what she does throughout the six chapters structuring her book. She keeps providing the reader with the broader cultural and historical context of the elaboration, which the Mexicanus has gone through un‐ der Spanish colonial regime and European influence. This approach allows the reader to better understand the content and structure of the Mexicanus and, at the same time, get an idea why it might have been hidden from Spanish authorities for so long. Chapter by chapter, she presents her historical and cultural analyses of the Mex‐ icanus including partially palaeographic and epigraphic transcriptions – in particular in two appendixes related to certain sections of the manuscript – although as such her book is not intended. A full-color reproduction of the Codex Mexicanus makes her book even more in‐ triguing with notes, bibliography, and an index comple‐ menting this excellent work. Chapter 1 focuses on the aspects of manuscript pro‐ duction. Here Lori Boornazian Diel outlines how Span‐ ish books called reportorio, en vogue during the 15th and 16th centuries, might have inspired the native pro‐ duction of the Codex Mexicanus and its particular con‐ tent (1, 7). Her comparison and arguments are well ac‐ ceptable. In particular, her assumption that just as the reportorio was a guide for people’s identification with early modern Spain, the Mexicanus might have served natives in Central Mexico in a similar way and helped them identify themselves with a new Christian era brought about by colonialism (2). She identifies the Colegio de San Pablo, founded in 1575 and located in San Pablo Teopan (today Mexico City), as the place the Mexicanus was most likely elaborated by the end of the 16th century (7 f.). Diel shows that the elaboration of the codex at the end of the 16th century happened at a time when a tense atmosphere existed with doubts and uncertainty over the natives’ intellectual capacity and their full adoption of the Christian faith. The creation of the Mexicanus may have been the educated Nahuas’ re‐ sponse which proved that they were indeed exemplary Christians within their own world guided by a new kind of identification which was free from Spanish control (12). In the same chapter, the author gives a brief overview of the different sections of the Mexicanus (6, Table 1.1). The Mexicanus as a hybrid manuscript con‐ tains European-inspired parts, such as a catechism or as‐ trological medical charts as well as sections related to the native calendar, to the genealogy of the Aztec dy‐ nasty and to the annals history of the Aztec Empire, and may – by content and by form – appear exclusively na‐ tive but definitely also mirrors European influences. Chapter 2 focuses on native preoccupation with time and its relation to the sacred, as belief shared by natives and Spaniards alike. Chapter 3 refers to astrology, health, and medicine and in particular to the connection between stars and the human body based on a reporto‐ rio. Chapter 4 analyzes the genealogy of the Tenochca, the ruling house of the Aztecs, outlined in the Mexi‐ canus on just two pages. Chapter 5 continues to analyze the historical account of the Codex Mexicanus. Here the story of Aztec migration, starting, as usual, in Aztlan and ending up in their later capital Tenochtitlan, is seen against the background of other well-known native sources from the early colonial epoch that include a similar historical account. In particular, Diel presents what she terms a “reading of this pictorial history” (17) which is not a full transcription but rather an in-depth historical and cultural analysis of the Mexicanus’ longest section spanning from page 19 to page 85. While chap. 1 serves as a broad historical and cultural introduction into the time of the elaboration of the Codex Mexicanus, chap. 6 provides her conclusions and the “Epilogue.” In her intriguing book, Diel finds many arguments which seem to corroborate the view that the natives may have adopted European ideas in order to shape them in their own way. This can be seen when they transformed a reportorio calendar into a pictorial form to establish a continuity between their native past and the present, compared to the Spanish roman past and their Christian 208 Book Reviews Anthropos 115.2020

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Anthropos is the international journal of anthropology and linguistics, founded in 1906 by Wilhelm Schmidt, missonary and member of the Society of the Divine Word (SVD). Its main purpose is the study of human societies in their cultural dimension. In honor of Wilhelm Schmidt‘s legacy, the cultivation of anthropology, ethnology, linguistics, and religious studies remain an essential component oft he Anthropos Institute – the organizational carrier of the journal.


Anthropos - internationale Zeitschrift für Völkerkunde wird vom Anthropos Institut St. Augustin seit 1906 zweimal jährlich herausgegeben. Ursprünglich als Sprachrohr für katholische Missionarsarbeit geplant, gilt sie heute als wichtige Fachzeitschrift der allgemeinen Ethnologie. Sie behandelt sowohl kulturelle als auch sprachliche Themen in mehreren Sprachen, mit Schwerpunkt auf den Völkern des gesamtamerikanischen und afrikanischen Kontinents.