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Old Jokes and New Multiculturalisms: Continuity and Change in Vernacular Discourse on the Yucatec Maya Language



ABSTRACT  Much recent literature on indigenous identity politics in Latin America has emphasized the emergence of new discourses on ethnic citizenship. However, the ways in which state-sponsored efforts to validate and revitalize the Yucatec Maya language become relevant to rural Yucatecans reflect far more continuity with older local narratives about the relationship between language use and modernity. Situating contemporary engagements with multicultural language policies within a broader history of locally meaningful language practices complicates the general model of indigenous language communities that has informed many recent studies of Latin American identity politics and reframes scholarly debates that have emphasized contrasts between emergent forms of essentialism or purism and more-traditional means of identity formation. This, in turn, suggests new routes through which multicultural and multilingual policies can be conceptualized for heterogeneous communities of indigenous language speakers.