Vulnerable identities: Maya Yucatec identities in a postmodern world

Juan Ariel Castillo Cocom, Florida International University


In numerous anthropological works there have been preoccupations about the relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples. Whatever social researchers have concluded, one thing is consistent: the tendency to interpret ethnographic “data” in terms of binary oppositions. This dissertation reviews the works which have been centered upon binary oppositions, as for instance, in the case of Yucatan, between the Maya and the Dzul—the Yucatec Maya term for white males—and highlights the fact that such works have failed to recognize that within and between each “pole,” or social group there are individuals that have multiple identities, and that do not recognize themselves as belonging to a homogenized “pole.” Instead, these individuals, recognize themselves as belonging to different groups and, therefore, being aware that they have not a single identity but multiple ones. Analogical anthropology is highly criticized because of its emphasis on binary oppositions, its authoritarianism, and the notion of the “Other.” In contrast, dialogical anthropology places great importance on the relationship between the individuals and the anthropologist. A relation in which both, the anthropologist and the subject, are immersed in a dialogue, because of the identification between the writer and the story that is being written. However, anthropologists seem to be more interested in “dialoguing” among themselves rather than with the people that they write about. Indigenous people are relegated, they are voiceless, and, therefore, we keep treating them as “objects,” and not as individuals. This is ironic, precisely because it undermines the aim of the dialogical discourse. In this context, awareness of self-identity or self-identities and the various ways in which Francisco, a good friend and the main character of this dissertation, assumes them, and the way I assume them, within multicultural contexts, leads us along the road to establish and reestablish communication. The methodology is based on four considerations: positioning, fieldwork conversations, self reflexivity and vulnerability. Hence, this dissertation constitutes an attempt to break with authoritarian models of ethnography, it is a dialogue between Francisco and me, a conversation among ourselves. A dialogue that expresses the desire of hearing our voices being echoed by each other.

Subject Area

Social structure|Cultural anthropology

Recommended Citation

Castillo Cocom, Juan Ariel, "Vulnerable identities: Maya Yucatec identities in a postmodern world" (2000). ProQuest ETD Collection for FIU. AAI9983998.