Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

The Everyday Sacred: A Symbolic Analysis of Contemporary Yucatec Maya Women's Daily Realities
by Sheedy, Crystal A., Ph.D., State University of New York at Albany, 2019, 298; 22588326
Abstract (Summary)

As a collaborative effort between myself and the Maya women with whom I worked, who live in Xocén, this dissertation seeks to illuminate the sacred world of Maya women, as well as dismantle the insidious narrative that younger generations of Mayas are losing their culture. Instrumental to this process is the use of decolonial methods (Lawless 1993) and descriptive theoretical premises (Geertz 1973; Turner 1967, 1969) that allowed me to analyze Maya women’s discursive speech, referred to as both chismes and heridos in Spanish, which can be translated as gossip, as well as the speech genre of u t’àan nukuč máak, advice of the elders, in the context of women’s everyday routines, where tusbèel, responsibilities, serves as the dominant symbol. From these efforts, I not only reveal the retention of symbolic knowledge amongst current generations of Mayas, but I also demonstrate how Maya women’s sacred world encompass their everyday lives.

Tusbèel, tasks Maya women perform each day, acts as the vehicle by which women interact with the sacred world. Because of the significance of tusbèel, mothers still stress the importance of teaching their daughters tusbèel, despite the new narrative of libertad, freedom, that circulates throughout the village. Parents introduce a young female child of three months to the sacred world via the héeȼ méek’, carrying a child astride the hip, ceremony. Mothers then teach their daughters their tusbèel and intersperse u t’àan nukuč máak, ensuring younger generations are protected from both natural and supernatural harm. Some of the advice found in this speech genre extends back to the time of los antiguos, the ancients. I conclude with the argument that Maya women are one of the forces of resilience that help Maya language and culture survive despite several distinct external processes that promote their loss.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Little, Walter
Commitee: Justeson, John, Collins, James
School: State University of New York at Albany
Department: Anthropology
School Location: United States -- New York
Source: DAI-A 81/2(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Cultural anthropology, Latin American Studies, Gender studies
Keywords: Cultural anthropology, Ethnography, Folklore, Gender, Linguistic anthropology, Maya culture
Publication Number: 22588326
ISBN: 9781085709828
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