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LeftMEXile3460 Report Summary

Project ID: 312717
Funded under: FP7-IDEAS-ERC
Country: Germany

Final Report Summary - LEFTMEXILE3460 (Left-wing Exile in Mexico, 1934-1960)

The ERC-project “Left-wing Exile in Mexico, 1934-60” (grant no. 312717) was dedicated to research into the history of forced migration of political refugees to Mexico during the period between 1934 and the end of the 1950s. Two systematic objectives guided the investigative approach: to establish approaches beyond the so far largely national perspectives on the experience of political exile in Mexico, and to break new methodological ground by developing projects that connect the existing historiography of exile in Mexico with urban studies, historical anthropology, and the praxeology of politics, with gender studies and the history of masculinities, and with studies of art and design as vehicles for the transfer of political and ideological knowledge. To this end, the project members undertook archival research in over fifty archives, libraries, and other research institutions in eight countries across Europe and North America. In terms of methodological approaches, the project took inspiration from social and cultural anthropology, cultural history, gender studies, network analysis, and visual history. The innovative potential of this research thereby consists of: a) bringing together archival materials relevant to the transnational experience of left-wing exile in Mexico from a wide range of European and North-American / Mexican archives, and: b) the implementation of coherently transnational and transdisciplinary approaches that contributes new ideas and methods to the scholarship of the field.
The project consisted of three separate but connected areas of investigation: The first (A. Reimann) explored the urban topography and spatial experience of exile in Mexico City between the 1930s and the 1950s. Cutting across national sub-communities of exile the lived experience of exile is followed from street level up: places of residence, political and cultural activities, internal and external conflicts as well as sites of politicized and private sociability are explored from the microscopic focus on individual buildings and neighbourhoods up to the metropolitan level of networks of transnational interactions. The politics of exile, thereby, become visible as topographic networks of transnational practice and ideological conflict against the backdrop of international politics during this period. The second area of investigation (E. Díaz Silva) explored gender identities (masculinities in particular) of left-wing exiles in connection with the mosaic of discourses, actions, and realities that represented Mexico as the host country. The activities, discourses, and political practices of refugees through their organizations reflect the influence of post-colonial models of masculinity as well as heteronormativity in social (personal and family) relations in the exile community. The ways in which exiles rejected imposed models of masculinity (e.g. through official propaganda, education or mechanisms of socialization) by fascism or other forms of totalitarianism is understood as a form of cultural resistance. The third area of investigation (R. Sheppard) explored the creation of new visions of modernity in post-revolutionary Mexico that shaped the places in which people lived and worked as well as the objects they used in daily life. The investigation is structured around Clara Porset, who arrived in Mexico in 1936 as a political exile and became an active participant in transnational networks of radical political, educational, and artistic associations in Mexico until her death in 1981. The politicized production of art and design thereby operated in a transnational sphere which was shaped by the interplay of modernist impulses often imported from abroad with the post-revolutionary circumstances of Mexican society and politics which emphasized specific local traditions of materiality, subject matter, and pragmatic functionality.
The findings and results of the project have been discussed at two project workshops in 2014 and 2015 and an international project conference held at the Residencia de Estudiantes in Madrid in 2016, are being publicised in over twenty scholarly papers presented to international audiences in Germany, Spain, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and El Salvador, eleven book chapters and articles in scholarly journals, a collection of essays resulting from the project conference proceedings, and three individual monographs authored by the project members.

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