Network and cultural bridge theories predict the source and durability of cultural boundaries, including how cultural boundaries are overcome in order for differing groups to have meaningful exchanges. Ethnographic interview data with three research subjects in Northern Mexico reveals the strengths and weaknesses of each theory. Minita Bustillos, Juan Daniel Villalobos, and Horacio Echeverrí­a contribute to bridging ties between the closed indigenous community of the Tarahumara and outside Mexican and American groups. Their positions elucidate the veracity of theoretical propositions found in network and cultural bridge theories. Findings suggest that though useful in understanding several aspects of network structure and bridging, network theory does not fully explain how a person becomes part of a network bridge or what social capabilities may be useful for someone in that position. Cultural bridge theories extend the explanation by showing the importance of relationship building in bridging, but rely too heavily on the notion that a single individual can provide the cultural capital and resources necessary to be a cross-cultural bridge in and of themselves. The additional concepts of habitus and cultural tool-kits supplement these perspectives by explaining how respondents acquired cultural and social knowledge that allows them to make connections in multiple distinct networks and how the respondents can so naturally say and do things to garner trust from members of both groups. This research shows how the theoretical concepts can be used in application to a specific social context. It also provides support for the possible use of the concepts of habitus, network bridging, and tool-kits for training members of grass roots organizations attempting to bridge between distinct, and even opposing, social groups.



College and Department

Family, Home, and Social Sciences; Sociology



Date Submitted


Document Type





Tarahumara, Raramuri, Mexico, habitus, Bourdieu, network theory, Swidler, Chihuahua, Sierra, cultural tool kits, cultural boundaries, networks, cross-cultural bridge, social capital, cultural capital, ethnographic research



Included in

Sociology Commons