Alexander Dawson

Simon Fraser University

Professor Dawson earned a PhD in Latin American History from SUNY-Stony Brook in 1997, and came to SFU in 2003 after spending five years at Montana State University. During his time teaching in the US he also spent periods at The University of Florida and Yale University. During his early career Professor Dawson worked mainly on the process of state formation in revolutionary Mexico (1910-1945). His work examined the role of anthropologists, teachers, bureaucrats, and indigenous activists in remaking the relationship between indigenous peoples and the state during this era. After concluding this work, Professor Dawson wrote a book on the experience of globalization in Mexico since 1989. His current research explores the ways in which the concept “Indian” was understood across North American boundaries during the twentieth century. The project is as much an attempt to understand larger phenomena that all three North American nations share, as to understand the ways in which indigenousness cannot and does not cross the border. As such, this project will illuminate the ways in which indigenous identities are constructed across the region, and will challenge essentializing (often racist) narratives and practices across the region. At this point his research is focused on two phenomena that seem to cross the borders but whose meanings seem distinctly rooted in regional and national phenomena, the indigenous boarding schools and the social and cultural practices associated with peyote. His publications include Indian and Nation in Revolutionary Mexico (2004).

  • First World Dreams

    Mexico Since 1989

    By Alexander Dawson     January 2006

    Mexicans have long dreamt of the First World, and in recent times it has landed there with a thud. Under the guise of globalization, Mexico opened its borders, reformed its political system, and transformed its economy. The impacts have been paradoxical. A vibrant civil society is marred by human rights abuses and violent rebellion. Market reforms have produced a stable economy, economic growth and great fortunes, while devastating much of the countryside and crippling domestic producers. Mexico is today one of the world’s largest exporting nations, yet has a perpetually negative trade balance. It is a country in a perpetual state of becoming; a modern industrial democracy where human rights are respected-and a violent, fragmented place where the chasms of wealth and poverty threaten to undo the dreams of modernity.