Tag: guatemala

Transgression as the Life-World

That Sunday morning the words came from my colleague José, secretary of the Q’eqchi’ Council of Elders Releb’aal Saq’e’(ACGERS), located in Poptun, Petén… “Tata Mingo is dead, he was lit on fire by his own neighbors a few minutes ago… He was accused of witchcraft.”  My knees succumbed, unable to let sink in the story José kept repeating over the phone, as if to make sure I was grasping the full gravity of what happened. Domingo Choc Che, a gentle soul and wise Ajilonel, expert on medicinal plants and practitioner of Maya Spirituality, and my research colleague, had been murdered.  “The others are afraid,” José went on, “what if they start coming after all of us?”  At that moment, the weight of my academic decisions felt like a punch in the stomach. I told myself we had been careful; we knew the area and had researched the risks extensively. Yet my ignorance of the subjacent complex local dynamics seemed unequivocal. The ACGERS Council was pushing the boundaries of a new type of research, in full trust of our partnership. That day changed me as an anthropologist and as transdisciplinarian. In this article I reflect on what it means to push and transgress the boundaries of collaborative research and how we may be asked to become a new species of social scientist. (read more...)

So long, Indiana Jones, or who owns “El Mirador”?

The rule of “finders, keepers” has held true for most archaeological discoveries at least since museums, as we now know them, have existed. Collectors of foreign objects have been around, of course, as long as war, but the officialization of plunder for the purpose of exhibiting foreign treasures in public spaces dates back to the Enlightenment (mid 18th to early 19th centuries), when feeding museums was part of anthropologists’ tasks, an expectation that survived until very recently. Explorers and discoverers were romanticized and immortalized in literature and, later, film. The debate over ownership of archaeological sites and objects has followed a similar arch; now the decolonization of knowledge and critiques of cultural appropriation are central to anthropological debates. Despite growing public questioning of ownership of the past and its objects, the ghost of Indiana Jones continues to capture and seduce many. The battle over who decides over the Mayan archaeological (read more...)

Science and Justice: “Impartial” Water Monitoring and Resistance to the Escobal Mine in Guatemala

Editor’s note: This is the third post in an ongoing series called “The Spectrum of Research and Practice in Guatemalan Science Studies.” A water monitoring process conducted around a controversial mine site in Guatemala highlighted the central, but also contested and indeterminate, role of science in environmental struggles. Groups with competing aims, and distinct conceptions of science and politics produce (or influence the production of) distinct forms and interpretations of science to ground their claims and shape the outcome of environmental conflicts. (read more...)

Honey, let we tell you! A speculative trans-species storytelling of the Maya Forest borderlands

Editor’s note: This is the second post in an ongoing series called “The Spectrum of Research and Practice in Guatemalan Science Studies.” Previous scholars largely confined their studies of European honey bee (Apis mellifera, including Africanized hybrids) communication to the waggle dance, with the communication range limited to food gathering, hive site selection, and other simple collective tasks. Recent advances in therolinguistic interpretation have demonstrated that a hive structure’s 3-dimensional matrix, including differentially-deposited pheromones and scent signatures laid in wax, contain additional, semi-permanently recorded content, though without a functional grammar. Rather than fully-articulated communication, the hive contains references to broader concepts—such as joy, woe, growth, care, loss, hunger, abundance, battle, defense, and so on. Reading waggle dances in hive context reveals that basic communication is often interwoven with broader narratives. (read more...)

Architecture as a Justice-Accessing Technology in Postwar Guatemala

Editor’s note: This is the first post in an ongoing series called “The Spectrum of Research and Practice in Guatemalan Science Studies.” On an early January morning in 2015 a group of lawyers from the Guatemalan NGO Mujeres Transformando el Mundo (Women Transforming the World), social workers, and human rights activists drove me and Megan Eardley (both of us PhD Candidates in Architecture History and Theory at Princeton University) through the department of Alta Vera Paz to reach the small village of Sepur Zarco. We were invited as architecture specialists after training under Eyal Weizman, who was a Global Scholar at Princeton University at that time. Weizman is the founder of Forensic Architecture, a research agency that uses the tools of architecture to conduct advanced spatial and media investigations in human rights violation cases. Traveling through what we thought would be a jungle, we encountered a landscape that was incredibly uniform, with vast cash crop fields of African Palm dominating our path. Although this image has become preponderant in the Global South, flex crops are just the last iteration of a long history of indigenous land dispossession and, in the case of Sepur, crimes against humanity by military forces. It is precisely in noting these changes in the landscape that altered forest patterns and absent villages can become tangible evidence of coordinated war interventions.[1] (read more...)