Silvia Sanchez Diaz

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Kansas, U. of

Grant number

Gr. 9843

Approve Date

April 29, 2019

Project Title

Sánchez Diaz, Silvia (Kansas, U. of) "Ch’orti’ Maya Handmade: Work, Gender, and Indigenous Identities in Eastern Guatemala"

‘Ethnic’ goods are regarded as vehicles to consume culture, but consumer fascination for indigenous commodities does not usually translate into fair income or decent working conditions for producers. This dissertation research in cultural anthropology investigates artisanal production, its incorporation into an informal and increasingly diversified rural economy, and the everyday lives of indigenous women who manufacture handmade goods to fulfill their dual role as breadwinners and homemakers. My work is based on multi-sited ethnographic research among Ch’orti’ Maya weavers, seamstresses, and small-scale producers in eastern Guatemala. In recent decades the Guatemalan state has capitalized on the image of Maya women as emblems of national patrimony to boost the tourism industry, but the ever-expanding rural informal economy undervalues high-skilled, labor-intensive dexterous work because it is done by women. My questions are concerned with the place of indigenous women in the economy, the social lives of ‘ethnic’ commodities—including essential household items, fashionable garments and accessories, and touristy souvenirs—, the production of style, and how Ch’orti’ Maya women articulate their identities vis-à-vis the nation-state and the marketplace. My work challenges prevalent notions of indigenous women as disposable workers. I demonstrate that Ch’orti’ Maya women create the possibility of a viable and meaningful livelihood through the small-scale production of handmade goods. Though precarious, artisanal production fosters the continuation of Ch’orti’ Maya women’s indigenous community in their own terms.