The Changing Futures of the Maya and their Anthropologists: Negotiating the Present in the Yucatan Peninsula

Federico Navarrete Linares


This article examines the conversations between Maya-speaking villagers in the Yucatan peninsula and Mexican and American anthropologists that have visited them since 1970 from the point of view of their different perceptions of the present and expectations for the future. Its aim is to analyze how the Western notions of history, which have been dramatically transformed with the recent crisis of the Modernist régime d’historicité, have interacted with the villagers’ own dynamic conceptions of historical change. As such it presents a historical reading and interpretation of anthropological texts.
Using the concepts of ‘cosmopolitics’ and ‘diplomacy’, as developed by science studies, it constructs a theoretical framework to understand how the anthropologists interpreted the situation and prospects of the Maya-speaking peasants and how they in turn interpreted their interaction with their visitors, and with the Mexican state and other global forces, according to their particular historical experiences of the succession of cycles of servitude and freedom. Through these negotiations both parties constructed different ‘common nows’, mutually understandable presents that allowed them to apprehend their shared situation.
This analysis leads to the definition of a historical relativity that shows how meaningful exchanges between different historicities can take place without one, including the Western notion of history, ever engulfing or fully explaining the other.

Palabras clave

history; anthropologists; Maya; Yucatan peninsula; Mexico; 20th-21st centuries

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