PUBlic Professor Series | Dr. James MacKenzie

Join anthropology professor, Dr. James MacKenzie, as he explores

Being Maya: Reflections on Ethnicity, Religion and Place.

Thursday, March 26, 2020 - 7:00pm - 9:00pm

Event Location: Sandman Signature Lethbridge Lodge, 320 Scenic Dr S, Lethbridge, AB

FREE. Everyone welcome. No RSVP required. Seating is limited, however, so arrive early! Light appetizers and a cash bar will be available.

From 19th century white explorers to 21st century New Age seekers—with platoons of archaeologists and anthropologists in between—interest in Maya culture has rarely ebbed. Of course, what comes to mind for most when they hear the word “Maya” are images of abandoned temples, soaring from rainforest canopies. The inevitable question follows: “Where did they all go?”

The short answer, of course, is nowhere. The Maya (as classified by scholars at least) are among the most populous indigenous peoples of the Americas, with some six million living in and around Guatemala and Southern Mexico (not to mention hundreds of thousands who have migrated to the United States in recent years). It is more interesting, if less dramatic, to reframe the question to ask what a “Maya” identity means to the people concerned.

In this talk, Dr. MacKenzie reflects upon what he has learned from contemporary indigenous Guatemalans—many of whom now identify in some way as “Maya”—since the mid-1990s, when he began researching religion and ethnicity in their country and beyond. For indigenous people themselves, it seems that adopting a Maya identity can involve choices with important consequences which involve religion, politics, and community. Their choices are also informed by the way they are represented, valued and appropriated by non-indigenous others. The global hype surrounding the 2012 Phenomenon (the so-called “end” of the Maya Calendar) quickened these discussions, which continue to resonate in a country where being indigenous can also mean being poor, disenfranchised and subject to the violence of the state and extractive industries.