Kevin Chrisman: Recipient of the Outstanding Dissertation Award in Latin American and Caribbean Studies in 2018/19 by CALACS

Kevin ChrismanDear Colleagues:

I take great pleasure in announcing the achievements of our faculty and I must admit that it gives me even more satisfaction to announce the achievements of our graduate students.  In this case it is Kevin Chrisman who was given the Outstanding Dissertation Award in Latin American and Caribbean Studies in 2018/'19 by the Canadian Association of Latin American and Caribbean Studies (CALACS).  The dissertation, supervised by Anne Rubenstein, is entitled "Meet Me at Sanborns:  Labor, Leisure, Gender and Sexuality in Tewntieth-Century Mexico."  The abstract is below.  Please join me in congratulating Kevin on this wonderful achievement.




This dissertation is a cultural history about Sanborns, a Mexican business that began as a drugstore in 1903. It continues into the present as a national chain of restaurants and department stores owned by the Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim. Each chapter explores different topics of analysis: modernity, consumerism, and upper-class leisure culture; revolutionary masculinity and racial politics; food, commodities, and Mexican nationalism; working-class labor struggles and company paternalism, and urban sexuality. The dissertation examines how everyday life created and was created by post-Revolutionary Mexicos changing gender ideologies, evolving nationalist culture, and openness to foreign capital. It argues that the Sanborns chain has been an essential site of contestation and redefinition of gender roles across Mexico. Tracing the development of Sanborns contributes to the discussion of Mexicos national culture during the twentieth-century.

Commercial retailers and spaces of consumption helped shape Mexico's urban landscape and consumer identities. The popularity of Sanborns was shaped by local consumer tastes and global technologies as they developed over time. My work describes the collaboration and conflict between Sanborns and its customers who used the floor space in their own way; the store began as a place of leisure for Mexico's upper-class but evolved into a sexual space shared among classes. Sanborns also became an important intermediary connecting U.S. manufacturers with Mexico's developing consumer culture, and U.S. tourists with folkloric Mexican handicrafts.

The fieldwork conducted for this project took place in Mexico City, Monterrey, and Acapulco. It incorporates the narratives of historical actors from a wide range of class and race positions. Source material for this project included government documents, company ephemera, business licenses, internal business documents, personal letters, advertisements, periodicals, photographs, film, novels, and other print media. The dissertation also incorporated ethnographic research from oral interviews with company employees and Sanborns customers.