Date of Award


Degree Name

Political Science


College of Liberal Arts

Type of Degree


Document Type


First Advisor

Jason Morrissette

Second Advisor

George Davis

Third Advisor

Jamie Warner


Indigenous political movements represent an emerging challenge to globalization as embodied by the spread of capitalist free markets and neoliberal reform. Indigenous groups are creating new spaces in which to express agency and propose alternatives to the dominant growth economic model. Although these processes have led to the creation of new and hybrid norms of development, they have also resulted in conflict between indigenous peoples and the nation-states within which they reside. The role of scholarly analysis in exploring and understanding these processes is crucial. However, conventional Western approaches-namely Marxist and Liberal- may prove insufficient for two reasons, one empirical and the other normative. First, these approaches are derived from a set of specific historical experiences which differ greatly from those of the indigenous societies they would presume to study. Such divergent experiences necessarily limit the scholar's ability to analyze and comprehend these processes. Second, relying exclusively upon Western modes of inquiry may be perceived as a colonial imposition. Such an approach would appear to reproduce the colonial relationship by privileging Western knowledge and assumptions. The goal of this research is to address these issues by incorporating native perspectives into a broader scholarly approach. When deployed alongside Marxist and Liberal frameworks, the Indigenist paradigm should provide greater comprehension of indigenous movements as they confront globalization. Furthermore, indigenous perspectives are here represented alongside Western perspectives as equals, thus “decolonizing” the mind. To accomplish this task, I have constructed a theoretical framework for charting the knowledge and assumptions of Marxist, Liberal, and Indigenist thought. Indigenist literature from North and Central America is reviewed in order to develop a coherent native ontological and epistemological perspective. Finally, all three conceptual paradigms are applied to the case of the Zapatista movement in Mexico from the 1980's to the early 2000s. This comparative approach reveals both the strengths and limitations of each perspective, with particular emphasis on the contributions of Indigenism to scholarly inquiry.


Mexico. Ejercito Libertador.

Political science - Movements.