Get access

“You Cannot Measure a Tzuultaq'a”: Cultural Politics at the Limits of Liberal Legibility



Abstract:  In the past two decades, many Latin American nations emerged from twin crises of debt and dictatorship towards an uncertain marriage of fragile democracies and neoliberal policies. The focus of this article is on recognition for a limited set of rights for indigenous peoples known as neoliberal multiculturalism. Through a case study of a sacred place declaration by Q’eqchi’ Maya activists in rural Guatemala, I show the limits of liberal legibility. If an organized group in struggle engaged with the neoliberal state on its terms, their goals and actions would necessarily be circumscribed to its limited scope for recognition. In this case, however, multicultural neoliberalism did not encompass the full spectrum of Q’eqchi’ political activism. I argue that Q’eqchi’ cultural politics goes beyond neoliberal limits, using spirituality and territoriality to signal a broader politics of transfiguration.

Get access to the full text of this article