Maya Hackers and the Cyberspatialized Nation-State: Modernity, Ethnostalgia, and a Lizard Queen in Guatemala

Essay Excerpt

This is increasingly important to address as Mayan organizing calls into question the representational work of anthropologists. While much ethnography has been useful for the Maya, we must acknowledge that the anthropological project often appears to be a V-like alien harvesting of information for intellectual snacks back home.

Keeping this ambivalent lizard queen position in mind, I will first briefly describe the work of the Mayan cultural rights activists in Guatemala and the centrality of information technologies to their work. Then I will discuss the effects of their struggles over representation and the responses of nonindigenous (ladino) state sectors. By drawing parallels between cyberspace and the nation state, I hope to keep "the context structured by transnational technoscience" on our view screens (Haraway 1992:300).  (Nelson, 290)

About the Author

Nelson is a Professor at Duke University.

"I began fieldwork in Guatemala in 1985 exploring the impact of civil war on highland indigenous communities with a focus on the more than 100,000 people made into refugees and 200,000 people murdered in what the United Nations has called genocidal violence. Since then my research has sought to understand the causes and effects of this violence, including the destruction and reconstruction of community life (Guatemala: Los Polos de Desarrollo: El Caso de la Desestructuracin de las Comunidades Indigenas CEIDEC1988). In A Finger in the Wound: Body Politics in Quincentennial Guatemala (University of California Press 1999) I describe the relationship between the Guatemalan state and the Mayan cultural rights movement. When asked about indigenous organizing many Guatemalans call it "a finger in the wound." How do material bodies those literally wounded in 35- years of civil war, and those locked in the fear-laden embrace of sexual conquest, domestic labor, mestizaje, and social change movements relate to the wounded body politic? My work draws on popular culture like jokes, rumors, global TV, and subjugated dreams of a "new race" as well as contemporary theories of political economy, subject-formation, the post-colonial, memory, and ethnic, national, gender, and sexual identifications. It explores the relations among Mayan rights activists, ladino (non-indigenous) Guatemalans, the state, and transnational contexts including anthropologists. My new project grows from my interests in cultural studies and cyborg anthropology and explores science and technology development in Guatemala and Latin America more generally. I am focusing on laboratory and clinical research on vector and blood-borne diseases like malaria and dengue and the intersection of this knowledge production with health care in the midst of neo-liberal reforms and popular demands."

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