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Representing Mayas

Indigenous Authorities and Citizenship Demands in Guatemala

Elisabet Dueholm Rasch

In this article, I analyze how indigenous authorities in Guatemala negotiate citizenship at the local level within the larger context of indigenous claim making in Latin America. I argue that the construction of citizenship at the local level is not only framed by models imposed on indigenous communities but also shaped by the meanings that individuals attach to their indigenous identity. I use the election of Quetzaltenango's first Maya mayor and the abolition of part of the system of community services in Santa María as points of departure for exploring the ways that indigenous actors approach legal frameworks as a way of constructing citizenship. In concluding, I discuss how new categories of inclusion can result in new categories of exclusion.

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Something Better

Hegemony, Development, and Desire in Guatemalan Export Agriculture

Edward F. Fischer and Peter Benson

This article examines non-traditional export production of broccoli, snow peas, and other crops in Guatemala. Focusing on Maya farmers, exporters, and government development officials, we trace the production of the desire to grow these crops, to make some extra money, and to enhance local and national economies. We find that the export business has left farmers shortchanged even as it has opened new possibilities of algo más (something more or better). We examine how this empirical paradox has emerged from the convergence and divergence of power relations and affective desires that produce the processes known as 'hegemony' and 'resistance'. We conclude by considering alternative ethnographic strategies for understanding the multifarious connections between power and desire, hegemony and culture.

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Allison D. Krogstad

Rumam Chamalkan (Nietos de los Kaqchikeles, Grandchildren of the Kaqchikel) is a folkloric dance-drama group from San Jorge La Laguna, Guatemala. Like other Maya initiatives that have come out of the postwar years in Guatemala, this group strives to preserve and maintain the traditions, memory, and identity of the Maya by retelling the stories of their elders and bringing their heritage to new generations and to the world. They endeavor to unite their people around common images and symbols, binding them together, and strengthening their social connectivity. Efforts of the Maya in regard to artistic, literary, and other creative expressions of heritage as well as forays into the political, economic, cultural, linguistic, and environmental systems of the country and world have begun, collectively and cohesively, to make a dent in the wall of inequality, repression, and discrimination that the world has built around the Maya.

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Silvia Posocco

This article considers debates concerning the contribution of anthropology to an understanding of vernacular and marginal forms of cosmopolitanism in relation to the environmental cosmopolitics of zoning practices in and around the Maya Biosphere Reserve (MBR), Petén, Guatemala. Zoning practices realize political and economic restructuring, integration, and fragmentation through conditionality and exceptionalism. The rationale for zoning of MBR territories evident in UNESCO's Man and the Biosphere Programme and USAID MAYAREMA Resource Management Project have combined the instrumentalism of aid-tied development with a cosmopolitan appeal to the protection of the global environment in the interests of “humanity” imagined as an internally differentiated, and yet singular entity. As zoning practices have emerged as forms of conditionality placed on a range of human activities, they have been called into question by “Other” discrepant and cosmopolitan constituencies advancing different imagined relations between cosmos and polis, “environment” and “society.” The article considers discrepant zoning practices and related imaginings adopted by the Communities of Population in Resistance. Q'eqchi' perspectives are also addressed, notably with reference to the environmental cosmopolitics of indigenous religious practice. By exploring the environmental cosmopolitics of the MBR, the article argues that through anthropological knowledge practices, plural and over lapping cosmovisions and related vernacular and discrepant forms of environmental cosmopolitanism are brought into view. The task lies in grappling with relativization, pluralization, and complexity as these follow on from anthropological knowledge practices and environmental cosmopolitan zoning practices alike.

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Vying for credibility in the US Congress

Legitimating symbols in the debate over immunization and autism

Maya Ponte

Throughout the debate in the United States Congress over whether vaccines cause autism, legitimizing symbols that index cultural values have played a prominent role in the establishment of credibility. While both sides sanctify the role of science in producing credibility, they draw on different images of what science is and where its legitimacy stems from. Those who favor the vaccine hypothesis frame science as a populist endeavor, the results of which are open to critique by all. Those against the vaccine hypothesis frame science as an elitist endeavor, the results of which may only be critiqued by fellow scientists. While both of these images derive their significance from the cultural history of the United States, they have a markedly different impact on the interpretation of evidence. From within the populist frame, personal experience and direct observation are highly valued. From within the elitist frame, epidemiological evidence trumps personal experience. Due to the incorporation of dueling images of science, the US debate over autism may be viewed as a debate between rival cultural values.

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Thinking through Surrogacy Legislation in India

Reflections on Relational Consent and the Rights of Infertile Women

Maya Unnithan

As its main focus the article is concerned with explaining the proposed Indian Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART) Bill 2010 (2008), and in particular discusses some of its limitations using a relational conception of consent and autonomy. It is argued that two major limitations arise from, firstly, the way the Bill attempts to introduce ‘universal’ notions of informed consent into a cultural context of socially determined decisionmaking, resulting in the failure to safeguard the welfare of Indian surrogates. A second limitation is that the proposed law entitles only some poor women (surrogates) in India to realise access to quality medical healthcare services compared to others (poor, infertile women). Given the significant class and gender based inequalities which frame reproductive healthcare service delivery in the country, legally guaranteed access to health services for surrogates becomes a privilege where the rights of some individuals and couples to reproduce and exercise procreative agency is valued and not others. The article argues that the Bill must give due consideration to the complex, relational and highly stratified contexts in which women undertake childbearing in India to understand why legally comprehensive consent procedures can co-exist with violations of personhood in practice. Without such consideration the article suggests that injustice toward infertile women can become part of the same legal process wherein overcoming infertility is recognised as a right.

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Introduction

Lenience in Systems of Religious Meaning and Practice

Maya Mayblin and Diego Malara

Questions of discipline are, today, no less ubiquitous than when under Foucault’s renowned scrutiny, but what does ‘discipline’ in diverse religious systems actually entail? In this article, we take ‘lenience’ rather than discipline as a starting point and compare its potential, both structural and ideological, in religious contexts where disciplinary flexibility shores up greater encompassing projects of moral perfectionism as opposed to those contexts in which disciplinary flexibility is a defining feature in its own right. We argue that lenience provides religious systems with a vital flexibility that is necessary to their reproduction and adaptation to the world. By taking a ‘systems’ perspective on ethnographic discussions of religious worlds, we proffer fresh observations on recent debates within the anthropology of religion on ‘ethics’, ‘failure’, and the nature of religious subjects.

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Shadow Soldiering

Shifting Constellations and Permeable Boundaries in

Maya Mynster Christensen

Contemporary warfare depends on private security contractors from countries in the Global South. In Sierra Leone, this dependency has produced emerging markets for private military and security companies (PMSCs) seeking to recruit cheap, military-experienced labor. This article explores how demobilized militia and soldiers in Sierra Leone negotiate categorical divides to make themselves employable for private security contracting in Iraq. Based on 19 months of fieldwork tracing militia soldiers as they move between shift ing security constellations, the article introduces the notion of “shadow soldiering” to explain the entanglements of public-private spheres and the blurring of boundaries between the visible and invisible that characterize these constellations. While scholarly work on PMSCs has increasingly highlighted the public-private interconnectedness, the article contributes an ethnographically informed perspective on how security contractors on the ground interpret such entanglements and how global security dynamics intersects with the local, everyday practices and processes that facilitate the supply of contractors.

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Maya Shabi and Walid El Ansari

Informal Jewish educational settings are places that both affect Jewish Identity and transmit Jewish knowledge (Chazan, 1991). For instance, Jewish youth movements provide young people with social, cultural, and informal educational Jewish experiences outside of the classroom setting (Reisman, 1991). Chazan (1991) explained informal education as ‘an activity that is freely chosen by a person and that is very dependent on that person’s active involvement and positive motivation. It is not effected in any special place, but may happen in a variety of settings and venues’. Hence, informal education is not based on the fixed curriculum or grading systems which are characteristic of schools, although, it should reflect a well-defined set of goals, contents, and programmes (Chazan, 1991).

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Demetrio Cojtí Cuxil

The history of Guatemala is dominated by authoritarian and conservative governments. It is said that the country is presently transitioning toward democracy, yet the government, as well as the democratic system itself, continues to be structurally colonialist and racist. Guatemala's leaders have not realized the implications for the government and for civil society of the constitutional and political recognition of the country as multi-ethnic, multi-lingual, and multicultural. Further-more, Guatemalan political elites ask and expect that individual and collective members of society be multi-ethnic and multi-lingual, even when the government and its organs are not. The necessary transition, public as well as private, from mono-nationalism to multi-nationalism can be achieved, but it would be more efficient and consistent if the government would take heed of civil society.