Travel and transgression in the Mundo Maya: spaces of home and alterity in a Guatemalan tourist market

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Burtner, Jennifer Carol

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This dissertation examines how different individuals active within tourism related work in Guatemala acted, reacted, and interacted during a critical period of post-conflict reconstruction (1988-1994). These individuals include solidarity activists, government representatives, indigenous market women and their families, tourists, textile wholesalers, members of local women’s associations, development extension workers, leaders of non-governmental organizations, government planners and anthropologists. The dissertation is divided into seven chapters. Over the course of our discussion, we visit/travel through numerous distinct but interrelated socio-geographic sites, ranging from the tourist marketplace of Panajachel and the community and family compounds of San Juan La Laguna to the Guatemala City planning offices of the Instituto Guatemalteco de Tourismo (INGUAT) and the conference halls of the University of Texas at Austin and Harvard University. In distinct ways, each of these places and spaces function as a site of cultural production and knowledge, helping to create certain notions regarding indigenous peoples, Guatemala, natural and cultural heritage, economic exchange, and women. Practices of travel, trade, production, consumption and research have linked them and their cultural and symbolic production together, facilitating the movement and exchange of people, ideas, and texts. Through a combination of face-to-face interactions, print media, photography, television, video, and the Internet, the images and information produced in each articulate with one another in a national and increasingly global dialogue on ethnicity, gender, economic development, civil society and the state. As mobility, travel, and tourism increase and ‘indigenous movements and their critics’ more actively engage with one another to influence future national policies, these links grow stronger, exchanges become more frequent and social networks expand (horizontally and vertically, geographically and numerically). This redefinition of space, place, power and meaning necessitates a radical reassessment of the role of traditional actors in increasingly transnational exchanges and the power iconic images, such as culture bearing indigenous women brokering goods in international settings, have within national post-conflict reconstruction.