Social Identities in the Classic Maya Northern Lowlands

Social Identities in the Classic Maya Northern Lowlands: Gender, Age, Memory, and Place

TRACI ARDREN
Copyright Date: 2015
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7560/768116
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  • Book Info
    Social Identities in the Classic Maya Northern Lowlands
    Book Description:

    Social Identities in the Classic Maya Northern Lowlands plumbs the archaeological record for what it can reveal about the creation of personal and communal identities in the Maya world. Using new primary data from her excavations at the sites of Yaxuna, Chunchucmil, and Xuenkal, and new analysis of data from Dzibilchaltun in Yucatan, Mexico, Traci Ardren presents a series of case studies in how social identities were created, shared, and manipulated among the lowland Maya.Ardren argues that the interacting factors of gender, age, familial and community memories, and the experience of living in an urban setting were some of the key aspects of Maya identities. She demonstrates that domestic and civic spaces were shaped by gender-specific behaviors to communicate and reinforce gendered ideals. Ardren discusses how child burials disclose a sustained pattern of reverence for the potential of childhood and the power of certain children to mediate ancestral power. She shows how small shrines built a century after Yaxuna was largely abandoned indicate that its remaining residents used memory to reenvision their city during a time of cultural reinvention. And Ardren explains how Chunchucmil's physical layout of houses, plazas, and surrounding environment denotes that its occupants shared an urban identity centered in the movement of trade goods and economic exchange. Viewing this evidence through the lens of the social imaginary and other recent social theory, Ardren demonstrates that material culture and its circulations are an integral part of the discourse about social identity and group membership.

    eISBN: 978-0-292-76812-3
    Subjects: Archaeology, Anthropology, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-xii)
  4. Chapter 1 SOCIAL IMAGINARIES AND THE CONSTRUCTION OF CLASSIC MAYA IDENTITIES
    (pp. 1-20)

    This is a book about social identities, and specifically about trying to recover and understand the social identities at play in Classic Maya culture of southern México during the period from approximately 600–1100 CE. Social identities are interesting for reasons that have to do with the history of archaeological research, as I discuss more fully below. They are also familiar aspects of our lives today. I use the term “social identities” to make explicit the pers pective that identities are not inherent (i.e., deriving from so-called biological characteristics such as race, gender, ethnicity, etc.) but rather are based in...

  5. Chapter 2 CIRCULATIONS AND THE URBAN IMAGINARY OF CHUNCHUCMIL
    (pp. 21-50)

    What was daily life like in the ancient cities of Classic Maya society? Did ancient people face the challenges of urban life many of us know today—was their neighborhood noisy, did they meet strangers when they went out, did they feel they belonged? Did they share a sense of membership or identity with the other people who lived in their city? What experiences shaped a sense of connection with their city? This chapter explores the social experience of urbanism in ancient Chunchucmil, a large urban trading center in northwestern Yucatán. To tackle this challenge I assemble information from a...

  6. Chapter 3 MEMORY, REINVENTION, AND THE SOCIAL IMAGINARY OF LATER YAXUNA
    (pp. 51-82)

    How did ancient Maya communities adapt to the changes that occurred after the end of the Classic period and how did they choose to remember their past? Were certain places or events commemorated while others were forgotten? How did the population of northern Yucatán remember and reinvent itself during the Postclassic period, when the political, economic, and social systems of the past thousand years unraveled and reunited in new forms? How were the boundaries between the past and present redefined? This chapter examines the material and artistic evidence for the invention of a new social imaginary that helped explain these...

  7. Chapter 4 BURIAL RITUALS AND THE SOCIAL IMAGINARY OF CHILDHOOD
    (pp. 83-116)

    How did the people who lived in ancient Maya cities and towns understand what we call childhood? How is the identity of a child created and materialized? Is it inherent in the experience of a young body or relational with adults? What does studying childhood reveal about cultural reproduction in ancient Maya society? Were children important, were they socially visible? Could a young child become a revered ancestor? This chapter examines a potent social identity that is often taken for granted as universal or biologically determined. In fact, childhood as an identity does not exist in the same way in...

  8. Chapter 5 GENDERED IMAGINARIES AND ARCHITECTURAL SPACE
    (pp. 117-152)

    How did people grow to understand gendered differences in ancient Maya culture? How did the expression and experience of gender change over the life course? Were there cultural ideals of gendered behavior, and was it possible to resist those ideals? How did interactions with the built environment help shape gendered social identities? How were objects used as partners in the negotiation of gendered social relations between people living in ancient Maya cities? Gender is one of the most profound ways in which people construct identities to differentiate themselves from one another. It is often grounded in ideas about how bodies...

  9. Chapter 6 WHY SOCIAL IDENTITIES?
    (pp. 153-176)

    Early in his broadly read volume on the rise of modern nationalism, Benedict Anderson states, “In the modern world everyone can, should, will ‘have’ a nationality, as he or she ‘has’ a gender” (Anderson 1991:5). Anderson’s analogy between two social identities that both assert powerful influence over our daily lives was made as part of his effort to define the concept of nation and the paradoxes that emerge in its study. Theorists of nationalism, Anderson explains, have been perplexed by the “formal universality” of nationalism in modern societies and its perception of antiquity, despite historical evidence of the relatively recent...

  10. REFERENCES CITED
    (pp. 177-206)
  11. INDEX
    (pp. 207-210)