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) "What Makes Indigenous Objects ‘Traditional’? Identity, Materiality, and Femininity in the Making of Ch’orti’ Maya Items"

This dissertation research in cultural anthropology examines how Ch’orti’ Maya women articulate their individual and collective identities in relation to ‘traditional’ objects. Ch’orti’ Maya women carry the ancestral legacy of producing clay items, maguey and tulle articles, and squash bowls to support their families, but the fate of these objects relies on local patterns of deforestation, soil erosion, competition with imported products, intermediaries, remittances, and population growth. How are artisanal materials, techniques, and styles changing as women look for new ways of making a living without losing their ancestral roots? What new meanings do ‘traditional’ objects acquire vis-a -vis contemporary environmental and social challenges? What types of knowledge do Ch’orti’ Maya women produce as they adapt artisanal production to a new context? How may experienced craftswomen and young students use ‘traditional’ objects to strengthen Ch’orti’ Maya identity? I answer these questions in collaboration with the Institute of Ch’orti’ Maya Science and Technology Upejkna’r e Ja’. After co-hosting a series of intergenerational apprenticeship sessions, we curate a museum exhibit that displays the dual role of female artisans as family providers and bearers of culture. This project preserves Ch’orti’ women’s knowledge for posterity and bridges the generational gap between craft makers and youth.