Publication Date



The contemporary production of pottery for global ethnic art markets set in motion a series of economic and social transformations that completely changed the Chihuahuan community of Mata Ortíz. This dynamic art form has included women and men since its initial stages over thirty-five years ago. Today, there are women of talent and expertise represented at every level of pottery execution and quality along the market continuum. Individual creativity and market recognition work together to create a context in which both men and women are able to capacitate themselves by acquiring the skills and competence needed to gain control over their artistic work, either as independent producers or in cooperation with others. In this dissertation, I bring together three aspects of their artistic work \u2013 aesthetics, production and the market \u2013 to argue that women are able to translate resources derived from their pottery work into growing personal and economic empowerment. By infusing new levels of individual expression into this mixed-gender art form, women dramatically expand the creative boundaries of the communitys aesthetic system. Through learning and controlling major aspects of pottery production and the subsequent income from pottery sales, they are changing their social position within the community and the economic position of their families. Women seek to expand their position within the market by actively responding to client taste and market expectation to achieve economic success. Using an ethnoaesthetic approach, I engaged the women in discussions of their art, and the underpinnings of their agency were revealed as they described their perceptions of learning their art; their artistic choices and judgments; their purposeful action in creating signature styles; controlling production processes; and their interactions within the market. These discussions formed the basis for my argument that artistic work can either enlarge women's capacities to empower themselves or deepen their subordination, depending upon the interaction between these aspects of their artistic work. While some women gained recognition, found new markets for their art and increased their incomes, others produced in response to patriarchal demands to maximize household income, and lacked control over the income derived from their labor.'


Women and Work, Art and Anthropology, Empowerment, Aesthetics


The Latin American and Iberian Institute; the Department of Anthropology; the Anthropology Graduate Student Association; the Graduate and Professional Student Association; and the Office of Graduate Studies of the University of New Mexico; and the Arizona Archaeological and Historical Society.

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Degree Name


Level of Degree


Department Name

UNM Department of Anthropology

First Advisor

Lamphere, Louise

First Committee Member (Chair)

Field, Les W.

Second Committee Member

Salvador, Mari Lyn

Third Committee Member

Tiano, Susan B.

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Anthropology Commons