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Pero, ¿dónde está el presidente ahora?: Developing Cultural Agency in Guatemala’s Age of Neoliberal Multiculturalism

Kite, Jillian (2020) Pero, ¿dónde está el presidente ahora?: Developing Cultural Agency in Guatemala’s Age of Neoliberal Multiculturalism. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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Each year Guatemala hosts Rabín Ajaw—a cultural pageant, which brings young Maya women from across the nation to display “cultural authenticity” through dress and performance. Scholars denounce the pageant’s inauthenticity – both aesthetically due to shifts in indigenous weaving and the use of traditional dress, as well as in terms of avoiding recognition of Mayas’ continued social and political subjugation, even after the genocide against their communities. Further, the contestants in Rabín Ajaw, who are tasked with the most authentic presentation of “Mayan-ness,” are atypical compared to the majority of Maya women living in Guatemala. While a great deal of Maya women suffer from poverty, lack of access to appropriate education, and are regularly denied opportunities to act as political or social leaders, Rabín Ajaw contestants are generally educated with stable jobs, bilingual, and far more financially privileged. Maya women’s image as a whole continues to be used as an archetypal, symbolic stand-in for Guatemala’s national culture. This appropriation is conducted by both the tourism industry to attract visitors and the male-dominated Mayanist indigenous rights movement to achieve each group’s aims with little benefit to the Maya women themselves. Given that the Rabín Ajaw pageant constitutes a multicultural spectacle that espouses to celebrate indigenous women and their culture while providing no material support before or after the event, there must be another factor motivating young Maya women to participate. Namely, this project investigates the ways in which Maya women exercise agency within a highly criticized event of superficial cultural appreciation, with aims to give voice to women frequently silenced by their symbolic status.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Kite, Jillianjik50@pitt.edujik50
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairMonasterios, Elizabeth
Committee MemberSotomayor, Aurea
Committee MemberDuchesne-Winter, Juan
Committee MemberPorter, Maureen
Date: 2020
Date Type: Submission
Defense Date: 14 November 2019
Approval Date: 8 June 2020
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 215
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Hispanic Languages and Literatures
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: No
Uncontrolled Keywords: guatemala, maya, mayanism, indigenous, pageant, agency
Date Deposited: 08 Jun 2020 16:33
Last Modified: 08 Jun 2020 16:33


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