Radical Indigenous Subjectivity: Maya Resurgence in Guatemala

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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
Stream: Identity and Belonging; the Politics of Diversity; Globalisation
Presentation Type: Virtual Presentation in English
Paper: Radical Indigenous Subjectivity


Evelyn Gere

MES Plan. Candidate, Department of Environmental Studies, Planning Stream, York University
Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Evelyn has volunteered with numerous community-based organizations in Eastern Canada, West African and Central American countries; it was through these involvements that she became interested in participatory approaches to development. She holds a MA degree in Sociology from Queen's University, and a BA Hons in International Development Studies from St. Mary's University. Currently, she is a graduate student in the Faculty of Environmental Studies at York University, enrolled in the Urban Planning stream. Her primary research interest focuses on exploring indigenous agriculture, and particularly the nexus between Pan-Maya Cultural Revivalism and community gardens in Guatemala. She speaks German, Croatian, Spanish, and French.

Dr. Tim MacNeill

PhD Candidate, Communication and Culture, York University
Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Tim has simultaneously pursued a music and academic career, with a number of publications/recordings and awards as evidence of achievement in each. Both careers have covered varied ground. Musically, Tim has explored and expressed a complex politics to render both critical and commercial success. Academically, Tim has honed an interdisciplinary background as he synthesized literatures engaged during undergraduate work in international development studies, a master’s degree in development economics and a doctorate in communication and culture. The synthesis of this and his professional career have resulted in a research interest in issues related to culture and international development.

Ref: D08P0233