Cultural Logics and Global Economies

Cultural Logics and Global Economies

EDWARD F. FISCHER
Copyright Date: 2001
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7560/725300
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Cultural Logics and Global Economies
    Book Description:

    As ideas, goods, and people move with increasing ease and speed across national boundaries and geographic distances, the economic changes and technological advances that enable this globalization are also paradoxically contributing to the balkanization of states, ethnic groups, and special interest movements. Exploring how this process is playing out in Guatemala, this book presents an innovative synthesis of the local and global factors that have led Guatemala's indigenous Maya peoples to assert and defend their cultural identity and distinctiveness within the dominant Hispanic society.

    Drawing on recent theories from cognitive studies, interpretive ethnography, and political economy, Edward F. Fischer looks at individual Maya activists and local cultures, as well as changing national and international power relations, to understand how ethnic identities are constructed and expressed in the modern world. At the global level, he shows how structural shifts in international relations have opened new venues of ethnic expression for Guatemala's majority Maya population. At the local level, he examines the processes of identity construction in two Kaqchikel Maya towns, Tecpán and Patzún, and shows how divergent local norms result in different conceptions and expressions of Maya-ness, which nonetheless share certain fundamental similarities with the larger pan-Maya project. Tying these levels of analysis together, Fischer argues that open-ended Maya "cultural logics" condition the ways in which Maya individuals (national leaders and rural masses alike) creatively express their identity in a rapidly changing world.

    eISBN: 978-0-292-79826-7
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Figures
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  5. PART I Contexts of Study
    • 1 Maya Culture and Identity Politics
      (pp. 3-30)

      Early one Sunday afternoon in late October 1981, Doña Ramona Peres Tuj,¹ while working at her market stall in Tecpán, Guatemala, received word that the army was looking for two of her sons. Not knowing if the news should be believed—it could have been a cruel practical joke—she rushed home to alert the family, who decided that the threat was real enough: the Peres Tuj boys had been involved in several Kaqchikel Maya cultural organizations that the army now viewed as subversive, and one of their uncles had been disappeared by unknown men earlier that same week. The...

    • 2 Tecpán and Patzún
      (pp. 31-62)

      Despite guidebook assessments, Tecpán and Patzún are special places for reasons that go beyond lamb’s meat and colorful costume, and traveling to them evokes fond memories for me. Coming over the steep and winding Pan-American Highway from Guatemala City, having ascended about 5,000 feet in 75 kilometers, one encounters the turnoff to Patzún across the street from a busy Texaco gas station. From there, a bumpy 13-kilometer stretch of road (at first paved, then gravel, and finally dirt) continues southeast through Patzicía and on to Patzún (see Figure 2.1). Patzún is located on the far edge of a vast plain...

  6. PART II Global Processes and Pan-Maya Identity Politics
    • 3 Guatemalan Political Economies and the World System
      (pp. 65-82)

      To understand daily life in places like Tecpán and Patzún it is necessary to look beyond town boundaries to the larger systems that affect local conditions. In this chapter and the next, I turn attention away from the particulars of lived social experience in Tecpán and Patzún to examine the restraints imposed by national and international contexts of political economic relations. In particular, I focus on Guatemala’s changing position in the world system and how this has affected Maya culture and identity politics at the national level. These data will then provide the macro framework for increasingly specific descriptions of...

    • 4 The Rise of Pan-Maya Activism
      (pp. 83-114)

      Out of the fires of the Guatemalan holocaust has risen, Phoenix-like, a pan-Maya movement demanding from the state a recognition (and revindication) of Maya linguistic, social, territorial, political, and economic rights (Nelson 1991, 1999; Smith 1991; Fischer 1993, 1996; Cojtí Cuxil 1994; Warren 1998). The strength of the pan-Maya movement (in terms of supporters and political power) has grown exponentially since the late 1980s, and its accomplishments are extraordinary, given Guatemala’s recent history of violent repression.¹ The pan-Maya movement has benefited from the postmodern trends of rising globalization, transnationalism, and what Fox (1997) calls the phenomena of ‘‘hyper-difference’’ and ‘‘over-likeness’’...

    • 5 Constructing a Pan-Maya Identity in a Postmodern World
      (pp. 115-138)

      Bradd Shore (1996) notes that culture ultimately rests in the minds of individuals, thus models of culture must account for individual agency and intentionality. Theories of cultural construction are particularly compelling in this regard, focusing as they do on the mechanisms by which people actively construct the meaningful worlds in which they live. Such approaches acknowledge the important role of agency in cultural production while providing useful analytic techniques and representational strategies to document the workings of cultural imagination and invention. Constructivist analyses also serve as powerful tools of counterhegemonic critique, de-legitimizing dominant ideologies by uncovering power relations beneath the...

  7. PART III Maya Identity as Lived Experience in Tecpán and Patzún
    • 6 Souls, Socialization, and the Kaqchikel Self
      (pp. 141-166)

      In this chapter I examine socialization in Tecpán and Patzún in relation to the formation of the heart-soul (k’u’x), arguing that cognitive models ofk’u’xare an important mechanism of cultural commonality. A normal person is described as having a contentk’u’x, and abnormal behavior is related to various states of thek’u’x(cold, hot, hard, in motion, and so on). Abnormal states may be fleeting reactions to specific events, but individuals are also predisposed to hold certaink’u’xtraits. These predispositions are partly due to destiny (the unique conjuncture of animizing cosmic forces prevailing on the date of one’s...

    • 7 Hearth, Kin, and Communities
      (pp. 167-189)

      Body metaphors provide salient, transposable cognitive templates for many domains of Kaqchikel culture, including household architecture, kinship terminology, and religious affiliation (Lolmay 1999).¹ I once asked a Kaqchikel linguist active in the pan-Maya movement about such body metaphors. He explained that they were related to a Maya perspective that all aspects of the human condition and the material world are interrelated, and thus one’s family, house, and environment are seen as organic extensions of the individual. Such metaphors also reveal, he continued, a Maya cultural proclivity for group cohesion—what affects the larger group is clearly seen to affect the...

    • 8 Local Forms of Ethnic Resistance
      (pp. 190-214)

      No ethnic marker, even the most essential, exists independent of lived experience, for it is only through sensually repetitive experience that such markers and the schemas they represent are produced and reproduced. They are reproduced across time and space, yet they are also tailored to historically and sociologically particular circumstances, and herein lies the conundrum presented by postmodern theorization. A theoretical zeal to correct the errors of our ethnographic forbears by focusing on the situationally contingent production of culture has led us to be too bold in our rejection of the sort of ‘‘essentializing’’ analyses that look at the historical...

    • 9 Economic Change and Cultural Continuity
      (pp. 215-240)

      Focusing on economic production, this chapter links the cognitive bases of local Maya identity to broader contexts of political economic change. I begin by looking at the traditional, and still predominant, economic base of Maya culture in Tecpán and Patzún, milpa agriculture, and its associations with cultural paradigms. I then turn to nontraditional export agriculture (particularly broccoli, cauliflower, and snow pea production), which has, over the last ten years, significantly altered local economic relations in the two towns. I relate the rise of nontraditional production to postdependency changes in the postmodern world system and show how local and national forms...

  8. PART IV Conclusion
    • 10 Convergent Strategies and Cultural Logics
      (pp. 243-252)

      While benefiting from an anti-essentialist valuation of subaltern agency, Maya scholars and peasants alike continue to assert the legitimacy of an essentialist cultural paradigm, arguing that there is a quality to Maya-ness that transcends the minutia of opportunistic construction. I began my fieldwork prepared to document the constructed nature of Maya identity, and to show how this construction is influenced by contemporary political and economic conditions. At first, I thought that my Maya interlocutors’ assertions of the essential nature of their identity were naive, misplaced, or ill-informed. Certainly, many Maya folk models can be challenged from a scientific perspective, such...

  9. Notes
    (pp. 253-258)
  10. Glossary
    (pp. 259-260)
  11. Bibliography
    (pp. 261-280)
  12. Index
    (pp. 281-288)