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After the Violencia: Indigenous Activism Kay Warren “Indigenous Movements and their Critics: Pan Mayan Activism in Guatemala” (1998)

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Presentation on theme: "After the Violencia: Indigenous Activism Kay Warren “Indigenous Movements and their Critics: Pan Mayan Activism in Guatemala” (1998)"— Presentation transcript:


2 After the Violencia: Indigenous Activism Kay Warren “Indigenous Movements and their Critics: Pan Mayan Activism in Guatemala” (1998)

3 Guatemala is a multinational society…That is to say ‘Guatemalan Culture’ cannot be other than a confederation of cultures and languages in which each preserves its originality (Cojti Cuxil, in Kay Warren, 195).

4 Ideological contradictions between the left and the Mayan movement: Ethnicity versus class struggle

5 Pan Mayan Movement Elements of Maya culture utilized to inform the construction of pan-Mayan politics -- traditional, pre-conquest How pan-Mayanism contributes to nation building through reverse orientalism

6 Edward Said’s orientalism (1978) The Orient signifies a system of representations framed by political forces that brought the Orient into Western learning, Western consciousness, and Western empire. The Orient exists for the West, and is constructed by and in relation to the West. It is a mirror image of what is inferior and alien ("Other") to the West

7 Orientalism Orientalism is "a manner of regularized (or Orientalized) writing, vision, and study, dominated by imperatives, perspectives, and ideological biases ostensibly suited to the Orient" (It is the image of the 'Orient' expressed as an entire system of thought and scholarship.

8 What are the paradoxes and politics of reverse orientalism? System of thought and scholarship dominated by ideologies suited to the Mayan

9 Local events and international developments created possibilities for the growth of the Pan- Maya movement New opportunities created with unanticipated results Exposing “democratic” contradictions

10 International developments International law “to freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development”

11 Declaration of the right of Indigenous Peoples (UN 1989) To protect their own cultural practices and ceremonial, archaeological sites; To practice their own spiritual traditions; To promote their own language; To control their own educational systems; To have access to mass media; To gain recognition of their own customary laws and land tenure systems, etc

12 The role of international organizations ILO (International labor organization) UN Catholic church NGO’s Amnesty International Human right watch Cultural survival

13 Observers express that: ethnicity could lead to a destructive break up there are not clear ethnic boundaries there is not such thing as transcendent concept of indigenous people

14 For Pan-Mayanists the movement means: Challenging the legacy of colonialism, racism Maya self-representation: Maya is not Static, represent a mix of practices and knowledges Problem with Indigenous identity as the only pathway to social change and self- representation

15 *** Indigenous ideology as a pathway to social change Cultivating common cause Legitimization of political and linguistic claims

16 How do Pan-Mayanists try to achieve inclusion in the Guatemalan political process? Creating a sense of cultural distinctiveness Political essentialism: issues of representation Challenging others who claim to speak for them

17 The development of the pan-Maya movement in Guatemala Is transformed from cultural to a political movement They seek: 1.Recognition of cultural diversity within the nation state 2.A greater role for Indigenous politics in national culture 3.A reassessment of economic inequities 4. Wider distribution of cultural resources and literacy in indigenous languages

18 Mayan Studies: Research Centers Through the research centers these intellectuals have created counter histories Denouncing the racism of national histories Critiquing foreign research practices and scholarship (including anthropological) Challenging western models of development and political psychology to counteract internalized racism

19 From issues of origin to issues of nation building Who are we if we are not the negative stereotype we have been taught? “ Only when a people accepts its history and assumes its identity do they have the right to define their future” New demands on the state: reforms on law, language, etc

20 Pan-Mayanists’ priorities Language revitalization: Literacy The revitalization of Maya chronicles of culture, history and resistance to the Spanish invasion. Popol Vuj and the Annals of the Kaqchikels Revitalization of May leadership norms (community council run by elders, midwives, and May shaman-priests) The dissemination of an internationally recognized discourse of indigenous rights focusing on recognition and self-determination

21 Critiques Ethnic separatism, ethnic polarization Violating the local grounding of indigenous identity in place and community Not appropriate for the country, some regions populated predominantly by a single group The Ladino cultures include indigenous elements Building on a language as a key basis of revitalization, stressing language group endogamy Pan-Mayan leaders and urban participants are seen as a neither indigenous nor ladino but rather a third ethnicity

22 Pan-Mayanists reaction Attempts to disempower the movement They are pragmatic and chose to work with any ideological persuasion

23 Discussion question Can a strategy of tactical essentialism be productive for the Maya?

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