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Religious Transformation in Maya Guatemala

Cultural Collapse and Christian Pentecostal Revitalization

Edited by John P. Hawkins, with a foreword by John M. Watanabe

Mayas, and indeed all Guatemalans, are currently experiencing the collapse of their way of life. This collapse is disrupting ideologies, symbols, life practices, and social structures that have undergirded their society for almost five hundred years, and it is causing rapid and massive religious transformation among the K’iche’ Maya living in highland western Guatemala. Many Mayas are converting to Christian Pentecostal faiths in which adherents and leaders become bodily agitated during worship.

Drawing on over fifty years of research and data collected by field-school students, Hawkins argues that two factors—cultural collapse and systematic social and economic exclusion—explain the recent religious transformation of Maya Guatemala and the style and emotional intensity through which that transformation is expressed. Guatemala serves as a window on religious change around the world, and Hawkins examines the rapid pentecostalization of Christianity not only within Guatemala but also throughout the Global South. The “pentecostal wail,” as he describes it, is ultimately an acknowledgment of the angst and insecurity of contemporary Mayas.

2021. 408 pp., 28 drawings, 59 halftones, 2 maps, 18 tables, 33 color plates, 8.5 x 11

Editor: John P. Hawkins

Contributors: Walter Randolph Adams, Gilbert “Gil” Bradshaw, Aileen S. Charleston, John J. Edvalson, Frederick H. “Fritz” Hanselmann, John P. Hawkins, Nicole Matheny Huddleston, Michael H. Jones, Clayton G. Larson, Benjamin Pratt, Winston K. Scott, Adriana Smith, Amelia “Amy” Sisco Thompson, John M. Watanabe, Jennifer Pleasy Philbrick Wayas

Download an excerpt.

“The book is a tour de force, building on some of the most sustained, perceptive fieldwork ever done in indigenous communities of the Americas. The polished writing, with its textured insights and depth of ethnography, explains in fascinating detail key changes in the spiritual life of Latin America and rural, indigenous Guatemala. I have never seen such a comprehensive treatment, and it will be of greatest value to those interested in rapid religious change. I know of few people who could take such an expansive view on the topic.”
—Stephen Houston, author of The Life Within: Classic Maya and the Matter of Permanence

List of Illustrations
List of Tables

Foreword. Christian Pentecostalism as Post-Protestant Weberian Religious Rationalization
John M. Watanabe

Preface. A Field School Approach to the Ethnography of Religion
John P. Hawkins

Acknowledgments

An Introduction to the Ethnography of Religion and Religious Change among the K’iche’
John P. Hawkins

Chapter One. The Communities of Nahualá and Santa Catarina Ixtahuacán
John P. Hawkins

Part I. Ethnographies of Present-Day Religious Practices in Nahualá and Santa Catarina Ixtahuacán

Chapter Two. The Religious Cargos and Fiestas of Santa Catarina Ixtahuacán and Their Decline
Clayton G. Larson, John P. Hawkins, and Walter Randolph Adams

Chapter Three. “Come Now!”: Current K’iche’ Maya Traditionalist Shamanic Ceremony and Cosmology in a Rural Hamlet of Santa Catarina Ixtahuacán
Winston K. Scott, John P. Hawkins, and Walter Randolph Adams

Chapter Four. Balance of the Fire: The Neotraditionalist Maya Spirituality Movement in Nueva Santa Catarina Ixtahuacán
Frederick H. Hanselmann, John P. Hawkins, and Walter Randolph Adams

Chapter Five. “The Church Protects Us”: Ortho-Catholic Symbolism in Antigua Santa Catarina Ixtahuacán
John J. Edvalson, John P. Hawkins, and Walter Randolph Adams

Chapter Six. The Unfinished Church: Accommodation and Resistance as Catholic Responses to the Declining Social Significance of Ortho-Catholicism as the Axial Religion of Nueva Santa Catarina Ixtahuacán
Benjamin Pratt, John P. Hawkins, and Walter Randolph Adams

Chapter Seven. Conversion to Evangelical Protestantism: The Ritual Reconstruction of a Disrupted Worldview in Antigua Santa Catarina Ixtahuacán
Michael H. Jones, John P. Hawkins, and Walter Randolph Adams

Chapter Eight. “Clap Your Hands and Sing”: Three Functions of Music in Nahualá’s Evangelical Protestant Churches
Jennifer Pleasy Philbrick Wayas, John P. Hawkins, and Walter Randolph Adams

Chapter Nine. Taboos and Togetherness: Religious Prohibitions and Evangelical Community Boundary Maintenance in Nueva Santa Catarina Ixtahuacán
Amelia Sisco Thompson, John P. Hawkins, and Walter Randolph Adams

Chapter Ten. “We Dance Together and Sing and Pray, We Unite as Women”: Maya K’iche’ Women’s Evangelical Conversion and Participation in Nahualá
Adriana Smith, John P. Hawkins, and Walter Randolph Adams

Chapter Eleven. A Fervor of Hope: The Charismatic Renovation in Antigua Santa Catarina Ixtahuacán
Aileen S. Charleston, John P. Hawkins, and Walter Randolph Adams

Chapter Twelve. The Catholic Charismatic Renewal in Nueva Santa Catarina Ixtahuacán: A Movement of Women
Nicole Matheny Huddleston, John P. Hawkins, and Walter Randolph Adams

Chapter Thirteen. A “Modern Generation of Youth”: Secularization and the Alienation of Charismatic Catholic Teenage Males in Nahualá
Gilbert Bradshaw, John P. Hawkins, and Walter Randolph Adams

Part II. Understanding the Christian Pentecostal Wail: Guatemala’s Religious Transformation in Historical Perspective

Chapter Fourteen. Corn: The Significance of Maize in Pre-Conquest Maya Society and Religion, circa 3000 BCE–1523 CE
John P. Hawkins

Chapter Fifteen. Colonialism: Catholicism and the Spanish Control of Land and People, 1524–1821
John P. Hawkins

Chapter Sixteen. Coffee: Independence, Global Markets, Liberalism, and Religion, 1821–1944
John P. Hawkins

Chapter Seventeen. Crisis: Population and the Failure of the Maya Corn Culture Covenant, circa 1930–1960
John P. Hawkins

Chapter Eighteen. Clemency: The Democratic Opening, 1944–1954
John P. Hawkins

Chapter Nineteen. Containment: Military Control, Outbreaks of Insurrection, and Religious Responses, 1954–1978
John P. Hawkins

Chapter Twenty. Cachexy: Religious Movements during Brutal War, 1979–1996
John P. Hawkins

Chapter Twenty-One. Chaos: The Postwar Generalization of Violence and the Slowing Rates of Christian Pentecostal Expansion, 1996–2019
John P. Hawkins

Part III. Understanding the Christian Pentecostal Wail: Guatemala’s Religious Transformation in Synchronic Perspective

Chapter Twenty-Two. The Religions of Nahualá and Santa Catarina Ixtahuacán in Juxtaposition
John P. Hawkins

Chapter Twenty-Three. The Attractions of Cultural Resonance: Christian Pentecostalism as Resymbolized Traditionalism
John P. Hawkins

Chapter Twenty-Four. The Attractions of Practical Consequence: Christian Pentecostalism as a Revitalization Movement in Failing Societies
John P. Hawkins

Chapter Twenty-Five. The Attractions of the Gift: Understanding the Conversion Process and Defining Religion
John P. Hawkins

Chapter Twenty-Six. Culture Collapse and Exclusion across the Christianized World
John P. Hawkins

Conclusion. Accounting for Current Pentecostal/Charismatic Appeal in the Digital North
John P. Hawkins

References
Contributors
Index

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