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Maya Nationalisms and Postcolonial Challenges in Guatemala

Coloniality, Modernity, and Identity Politics

Emilio del Valle Escalante

In the past few decades, indigenous movements throughout the Americas have become the cornerstone of popular mobilizations. These movements have made their mark in diverse institutional and political landscapes. Although this prominence has been considered a recent phenomenon, it is but the latest example of the ongoing creativity of indigenous peoples in their efforts to achieve civil rights and legal recognition as differentiated cultural entities. Their struggle has changed the makeup of Latin American nation-states to the point that these can no longer be conceived in conventional terms, that is, as culturally and linguistically homogenous.

This book focuses on the emergence and political-cultural implications of Guatemala’s Maya movement. It explores how, since the 1970s, indigenous peoples have been challenging established, hegemonic narratives of modernity, history, nation, and cultural identity as these relate to the indigenous world. For the most part, these narratives have been fabricated by non-indigenous writers who have had the power not only to produce and spread knowledge but also to speak for and about the Maya world. Contemporary Maya narratives promote nationalisms based on the reaffirmation of Maya ethnicity and languages that constitute what it means to be Maya in present-day society, as well as political-cultural projects oriented toward the future.

2009. 224 pp., notes, index, references, 6 x 9

Contributors: Emilio del Valle Escalante

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“…brings a cosmopolitan set of readings to bear on the subject of Guatemalan literature and offers incisive critical readings of specific texts—literary, testimonial, journalistic, and even state policy documents—while embedding them in their historical contexts, and in the streams of subaltern and ‘decolonial’ thinking from throughout the hemisphere.”
—Diane Nelson, Duke University

“[This book] will become a foundational text on indigenous matters throughout the hemisphere.”
—Arturo Arias, University of Texas

“Del Valle Escalante’s attention to the ways both Maya and their critics used writing to advance their agendas makes a valuable contribution to the rich literature on Guatemala’s experience with modernization, capitalism, and neoliberalism. Scholars of the Maya and Guatemala will find much of interest in this book.”
—David Carey Jr., University of Southern Maine, Ethnohistory, vol. 57, no. 4


  1. Introduction: Globalization, Coloniality, and Social Movements
  2. From the “quot;Indian” as a Problem to the Indian as a Political and Social Agent: A First Light of the Maya Movement
  3. New Colonial and Anticolonial Histories
  4. Rethinking Modernity and Identity Politics in the Interethnic Debate in Guatemala
  5. Toward an Intercultural Education and Citizenship
  6. Conclusion: Final Thoughts

There are no working papers for this book at the present time.