As ideas, goods, and people move with increasing ease and speed across national boundaries and geographic distances, the economic changes and technological advances that enable this globalization are also paradoxically contributing to the balkanization of states, ethnic groups, and special interest movements. Exploring how this process is playing out in Guatemala, this book presents an innovative synthesis of the local and global factors that have led Guatemala's indigenous Maya peoples to assert and defend their cultural identity and distinctiveness within the dominant Hispanic society.
Drawing on recent theories from cognitive studies, interpretive ethnography, and political economy, Edward F. Fischer looks at individual Maya activists and local cultures, as well as changing national and international power relations, to understand how ethnic identities are constructed and expressed in the modern world. At the global level, he shows how structural shifts in international relations have opened new venues of ethnic expression for Guatemala's majority Maya population. At the local level, he examines the processes of identity construction in two Kaqchikel Maya towns, Tecpán and Patzún, and shows how divergent local norms result in different conceptions and expressions of Maya-ness, which nonetheless share certain fundamental similarities with the larger pan-Maya project. Tying these levels of analysis together, Fischer argues that open-ended Maya "cultural logics" condition the ways in which Maya individuals (national leaders and rural masses alike) creatively express their identity in a rapidly changing world.