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School of Geography

Laura Loyola Hernandez Dr. Laura Loyola Hernandez

Contact details

Room 10.14 Garstang
School of Geography
University of Leeds
University Road
Leeds LS2 9JT   UK



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Research overview

My doctorial thesis focused on how bodily and spatial understandings of gender, race and ethnicity affect the process by which twenty Maya women were selected as candidates and elected into government in indigenous municipalities in Yucatán (2012-2015). While mainstream studies in Mexico focus on female politicians after their election, my work covers both the selection of these women as mayoral candidates and the first year of administration. Through an analysis of sixty in-depth interviews and participant observation, my thesis offers a
unique view on the particularities of the women’s trajectories into office. My work engages critically with Judith Butler’s (1993, 1997, 2006) notion of ‘performativity’ by adapting it to the study of ethnic and spatial relations. Performativity is re-conceptualized as a tool of analysis that allows us to comprehend the different ways in which the state and society shape gender, racial and ethnic identities. My research shows how female politicians often have to navigate between identities assigned to them by society and their own understanding of
what it is to be Maya and women. Furthermore, and following the work of Elizabeth Grosz (1994, 1995, 2001), an analysis is made about how female politicians see their respective municipalities as extensions of their bodies and as performative spaces (Gregson and Rose, 1999; Davis and Walker, 2010) in ways that allow them to negotiate meanings of femininity, indigeneity and politics. My thesis also builds upon and extends the insights of critical race studies that examine how race is a social construction and performance that has been
propagated by mestizaje and currently by multiculturalism. In Yucatán, multicultural policies that tend to privilege a specific image of what it means to be indigenous. In these policies, indigeneity is largely framed as a cultural marker that has no place in the formal realm of politics. Thus, while the legacy of indigenous groups has a place in the nation’s history, there are limited spaces for the political empowerment of indigenous groups. Hence, multiculturalism impacts how female indigenous subjects are disciplined by the state.


My current project is sponsored by a British Academy Postdoctoral fellowship. This project examines the role emotions have in non-traditional political acts for women to be elected in indigenous communities in Yucatán, Mexico. That is, this project seeks to explore the role emotions have in indigenous customary politics. Emotions in politics is an emerging field in political geography. By concentrating in indigenous communitities, important questions can be answered, such as: how do politicians deal and perform emotions differently? What role do
emotions play in the constitution of the gendered, racial and ethnic body? What kind of emotional performances are considered as appropriate in indigenous communities regarding politics? These types of questions give an insight into how politics is performed and lived in the everyday lives of constituents. It also sheds light into the complex and nuance dynamics that are involved in indigenous politics.


  • May 2016 Research Seminar at Centro de Estudios en Derechos Humanos (Human Rights Study Centre, Mexico), 27 May, 2016 with the paper ‘Transformación del estado desde los márgenes: navegación de
    alcaldesas mayas entre discursos multiculturales en Yucatán’ (Transforming the state from the margins: how Maya female mayors navigate amongst multicultural discourses in Yucatán).
  • January 2014 Participant as speaker in the PhD research Day on Latin America in the Centre for Latin American Studies (CLAS), 10 January, 2014 Cambridge, UK with the paper ‘Between catrinas and mestizas: gender and ethnic performativaties of Mayan women politicians in Yucatán.’
  • June 2013 Latin American Studies Association (LASA) Annual Conference: ‘Towards a new social contract?’: ‘Disciplining women candidate’s bodies in Yucatecan municipalities,’ Washington D.C., USA, May 29 th to June 1 st , 2013.
  • March 2013 Women, Power and Politics Conference, Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM): ‘Between catrinas and mestizas: disciplining women mayors’ bodies in Yucatan,’ Montreal, Canada, March 14 th to
    March 16 th , 2013.
  • Nov 2011 Ethnicity, Race and Indigenous Peoples in Latin American and the Caribbean Conference (ERIP): ‘Indigenizing the female body through discipline, the corporeal and performativity,’ San Diego, USA, November 3 rd to November 5 th , 2011.
  • May 2010 Colloquium on Gender and citizenship in Mexico: study cases, Universidad Autónoma Metropolitina-Xochimilco: ‘My house, my pueblo: gender barriers in Yucatecan municipalities,’ Mexico City,Mexico, May 20th, 2010.
  • Oct 2008 Colloquium on Gender, Culture, Discourse and Power, National School of Anthropology and History (ENAH): ‘The power behind words: the discourse towards women before and after the Islamic
    Revolution,’ Mexico City, Mexico, October 7 th to October 9 th , 2008.