Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Liberal Studies


Katherine Manthorne

Subject Categories

Feminist Philosophy | Indigenous Studies | Latin American Languages and Societies | Latin American Literature | Latina/o Studies | Performance Studies | Photography | Race, Ethnicity and Post-Colonial Studies | Social and Cultural Anthropology


Mexican Photography, Archives, Gender, Performance, Graciela Iturbide, Magic Realism


Throughout archives of photographic collections, as one discovers the focused, artistic selective process of images that become part of a photographer’s collection, one must venture further and ask: will these choices be decisively remembered by an individual or collective audience or actively be dismissed, misunderstood, and denied presence? For my master’s thesis, I will be analyzing Mexican photographer Graciela Iturbide’s photobook, Juchitán de las Mujeres, a photo-collection of the women-empowered indigenous society in Oaxaca, Mexico which erupted during Latin American photography’s prime in the 20th century, turning away from a deeply exoticized past and towards a celebration of Hispanism as part of the Latin American photographic archives. Throughout the Anglo-American spheres of scholarship, collections much like Iturbide’s are easily displaced and silenced, covered over with voices that disrupt sacred histories with exoticized narratives. Juchitán de las Mujeres contests that silence through its intimate collection of photographs in an attempt to capture the essence of human solitude under the surface of the ethnographic. Despite attempts of providing a direct perspective into Juchitán society, critiques of Iturbide’s work question whether the collection truly challenges previous colonial documentations or, instead, perpetuates the cycle of “Other”-ing and exoticizing cultures limited within the trope of “magic realism,” an artistic realm restricted to pure fantasy that is often applied to Latin American literature and art.

In this thesis, I define the archive as an artistic collection specifically shared with the public, a place of memory commemorating the work of an artist and their subjects. This will be used to describe Iturbide’s photographic collections that she has curated and presented to the public, specifically what she has created as a result of her experiences in Juchitán. My personal work and interaction within Latin American photographic archives have driven me to question the effect of the artistic choices made within Iturbide’s collection, a photographer who deliberately defies the gendered, magic realist order by reimagining it and creating new methods of seeing. The careful deliberation of images by the photographer and decisive action to share the collection publicly reveal the intended and unintended reactions to the archive overall. Ascribing meaning to the collection thus becomes strictly relative socially, culturally, and individually; it walks along the fine line between the artist’s intention and the public audience’s reaction. This begs the archival investigator to ask: whose accounts and narratives of a society are verifiable, worthy, and acceptable to be part of a national and continental growing photographic archive? Who has the final selective power in the archive, for what purpose and why? This thesis addresses Iturbide’s artistic efforts and distinct photographic vision to create new witnesses for the growing photographic archives of indigenous societies through the perspectives of the subjects themselves, new methods of seeing Mexico, of Latin America, of the world.