Los caminos de la resistencia : comunidad, política e historia Maya en Guatemala

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This dissertation is about Mayan people’s resistance and identity formation, particularly in Ixtahuacán, a Maya-Mam town in northwestern Guatemala. It focuses on a central paradox: that a notion of “locality,” including but not limited to the municipio or township, is deployed both as part of the processes that oppress the Maya and the processes through which Mayan people contest oppression and engage in collective self-affirmation. Building on 18 months of ethnographic research and theoretical perspectives of both Mayan and non-Mayan origins, I seek to resolve this paradox by delving into the varied and complex ways that Mam people respond to the myriad faces of oppression. In so doing, I propose to understand Mam struggles through what I call kojb’il, which in the Mam language basically means community. I argue that kojb’il is a window of inquiry that can lead us to a better understanding not just of the ways in which people resist but also the ways a new collective identity emerges. I first analyze Mam people’s political organizing experiences and the ways kojb’il has been constructed historically. Second, I study the ways kojb’il relates to Mam people’s own understanding of their collectivity as well as how this collectivity is constructed discursively. Third, I analyze the ways people talk about current crisis or threats to their kojb’il, their collectivity and their well-being. Fourth, since a main part of this dissertation is about Mam people’s agency, I seek to further develop an understanding of who these actors are. I argue that in order to understand Mayan people’s struggles we must focus on voices from the margins that are rarely taken into account. And finally, I examine other cultural practices that are essential in the formation of kojb’il. In particular, I focus on the poom which is fundamental to Mam spiritualityand is the heart of Mam collective identity. This dissertation contributes to an understanding of how Mam people resist, and it takes into account owr own ways of understanding the world and owe own ways of talking about it and constructing it. It also contributes to the body of literature that focuses on Mayan studies and indigenous people’s social movements in Latin America.