Friday, November 14, 2008

Reinventing the Lacandon: Subaltern Representations in the Rain Forest of Chiapas

Brian Gollnick


University of Arizona Press

The history and indigenous people of present-day southern Mexico and northern Guatemala have had a long and complex intersection with colonial and imperial forces. Ever since the Spanish first landed on the shores of Central America and began exploring inland during the 16th century, the indigenous peoples of the region have been impacted by a continuing array of diseases, policies, and discourses. Within this larger area, the southern Mexican state of Chiapas including the Lacandon rain forest has been of particular focus and interest. Although Chiapas has a long and rich tradition within the larger arena of indigenous issues, it has been decades since academia in the United States has examined this tradition with some specificity.
Reinventing the Lacandon Rain Forest
Teobert Maler (1842-1917) traveled through the region in the late nineteenth century to photograph Maya ruins, capturing the first known images of the Lacandones. Not long after Maler, Alfred Tozzer (1877-1954) published his A Comparative Study of the Mayas and the Lacandones (1907), which is essentially a study of Lacandon religion. More recently, Didier Boremanse’s work Hach Winik: The Lacandon Maya of Southern Mexico (Latin American Monograph Series) (IMS Monograph) (1999) and R. Jon McGee’s book Watching Lacandon Maya Lives (2001) have contributed to a modern understanding of the Lacandon region and it’s indigenous peoples. However, until now there has been a general hole in scholarship concerning the Lacandon and its indigenous peoples within a broader context. In an exciting new book, Reinventing the Lacandón: Subaltern Representations in the Rain Forest of Chiapas, Brian Gollnick attempts to remedy this dearth of focus, by bringing into view and discussion the indigenous peoples and their history.

Rather than addressing cultural production from Chiapas in all of its breadth, however, Gollnick agues that Chiapas and the Lacandon rain forest are best understood not as a Central American backwater but as one focal point within a global field of struggle around culture and politics. This is particularly true as local, national, and international activist scholars, NGOs, and others look to hot spots such as Chiapas for signs of hope in the continuing struggle of indigenous people’s rights and justice.

Continue reading about Reinventing the Lacandon: Subaltern Representations in the Rain Forest of Chiapas here.

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