“Our Culture is Not for Sale”: Maya Spirituality and the December 21st, 2012 Predictions in a Global Context
Dr. Elizabeth Bell
Elizabeth Bell is a Senior Lecturer at The Ohio State University, where she received her doctorate in 2012, specializing in Latin American literatures and cultures with a minor in Folklore Studies. She has worked with the Kaqchikel-Maya population in Guatemala since 2006 and studies the post-war resurgence of traditional Maya spiritual practices. She has published several articles based on her research and is currently revising her book manuscript for publication.
In 2009, this young researcher received a Fulbright grant to carry out fieldwork in Guatemala, focusing on the spiritual practices of Kaqchikel-Maya communities. “These communities make part of a society with increasing religious plurality, economic and ethnic inequality, drug-related violence and the legacy of military violence and discrimination. They face ongoing lack of recognition and voicelessness in a society that values them only insofar as their culture can be appropriated for a growing tourism industry”. One of the cultural objects colonized through this industry and the media around the world is the Maya calendar and time predictions, which constitute clear demonstrations of ancient and sophisticated systems of knowledge. In her talk, Bell will discuss the attempts of the Mayas to decolonize their systems of knowledge, focusing on the infamous 2012 “doomsday” predictions. She will share with us examples from her fieldwork before and after 2012. We will see how, when unable to achieve social and political representation and recognition in this highly stratified postcolonial society, the Maya population negotiates meaning and achieves legitimacy by using the very tool which sets them apart: their culture.