Francisco Diaz

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Pennsylvania, U. of

Grant number

Gr. 10106

Approve Date

April 8, 2021

Project Title

Diaz, Francisco (Pennsylvania, U. of) "Becoming Mayanist: Reconsidering the Invention of the Maya"

Living Maya people have long been rendered by Western researchers in racialized, demeaning, and condescending ways that sharply contrast with the reverence these researchers hold for ancient Maya ruins. My project reverses the anthropological gaze onto these researchers, examining early research on the ancient and living Maya in order to see how it has acted as a form of epistemic colonization by co-opting and distorting Indigenous histories. I do this by conducting a critical, decolonial ethnographic reading of the early Mayanist research out of the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology at Harvard, the Carnegie Institution of Washington, and the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. This reading re-locates the living Maya who participated in the research process and reveals how the subjectivities of early Mayanists shaped their research process, the constructs of living Maya personhood, and those of ancient Maya heritage. Through critical content analysis of Mayanist research, I use the inscribed social histories of the resultant material to track the emergence of the Mayanist as researcher and the Maya as object of study. In the process, this engagement demonstrates how Indigenous people have actively participated – but been buried – since the beginning of anthropological research.