This paper explores current Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto’s 2013 public education reform through ethnographic engagement, archival research, and interviews in Mexico City and Guerrero, Mexico. By May 2013, the National Coordination of Education Workers’ (CNTE)—the primary education reform opposition movement—had gained national traction and more than 40,000 educators from various states indefinitely relocated to Mexico City’s zocalo. In this paper, the author presents an account of the social conditions of policy formation and experiences of violence in the lives of teachers, legislators, political advisors, students, and community members, engaged in shaping education and opposing the reform. An anthropological approach to policy and violence embraces the analytical horizons of a world that prompts us to consider such large-scale phenomena as economic crises, neoliberal policies, and forced disappearances. A focus on dispersed communities allowed the author to explore the ways in which people engage, change, and experience the violence of policy across fluid borders, instead of how policy impacts presumably bounded communities.

This Paper was awarded the "Society for Urban National and Transnational/global Anthropology graduate student paper" prize in 2014.


Fieldwork was conducted with support from the Violence and Conflict Laboratory and CIESAS Mexico City.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.