Radical Indigenous Subjectivity: Maya Resurgence in Guatemala
By way of discussing Pan-Maya activism in Guatemala, we suggest that there exist three major fallacies that must be avoided when considering identity-based social movements. First, the essentialist fallacy can lead to uncritical romanticization that threatens to restrict freedom and creativity of the subject. Second, the instrumentalist fallacy can lead to the discredit of movements as reactive, ephemeral, and fictitious. Third, the modernist fallacy inspires a tendency to discount movements that do not explicitly seek to capture state power. We examine El Movimiento Pan-Maya through theory that posits a human subject that is both discursively and historically situated – that is propelled by historical momentum as it interacts with present social structures and flows. Consequently, we argue that the movement entails a performance of an indigenous subjectivity that is produced by Maya activists themselves as they enact a felt historical position within a complex system of global structures and flows – a system to which they themselves contribute. Finally, we argue that the resultant movement is radical in the sense that it threatens to usurp deep seeded systems of cultural power, and that this radical potential risks being unrecognized due to the modernist fallacy.
Keywords: Indigenous, Culture, Social Movement, Guatemala, Development, Maya, Radical Indigenous Subjectivity
MES Plan. Candidate, Department of Environmental Studies, Planning Stream, York University
Dr. Tim MacNeill
PhD Candidate, Communication and Culture, York University