Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

There is no such thing as ‘the’ Indian

09.05.2008
An increasing number of mayors in Guatemala are of Indian origin. Dutch researcher Elisabet Rasch went to find out what this development means and discovered that there is much more to building a multicultural democracy than electing Indian mayors and presidents. This is due to the enormous range of interpretations of identity: there is no such thing as ‘the’ Indian.

Indigenous movements tend to portray the Indian population as unchangeable and authentic in order to demand certain political and cultural rights. They do this by appealing to international treaties and national legislations, which likewise uphold a clear-cut definition of ‘indigenousness’.

However, is it actually possible to determine who is and who is not an Indian? And, on this basis, can it be determined what a multicultural democracy should look like?

Rasch’s research explored how different indigenous identities and cultures are defined and interpreted at a local level, and what actually goes on behind treaties, laws, fine speeches and glossy pamphlets. She demonstrates how local authorities and politicians judge indigenous characteristics - such as the use of certain clothing, the speaking of an indigenous language and partaking in Indian spiritual ceremonies - in different and sometimes conflicting ways. To some these elements of indigenous culture are almost sacred; to others they represent underdevelopment and backwardness.

Nevertheless they all feel indigenous and they all have ideas of what an indigenous multicultural democracy should look like. This causes tension between mayors, traditional Indian authorities (such as councils of elders) and community magistrates. In one of the villages, where Rasch carried out fieldwork, this even led to the abolition of one of the traditional authorities.

Multicultural co-existence

On 29 December 1996, after 36 years of civil war, a peace treaty was signed between the Guatemalan government and the armed opposition. Since these peace agreements, Guatemala has been transformed from a homogenous nation state into a society that calls itself ‘multicultural’. Two actors continue to play an important role in this process.

On the one hand there are an increasing number of indigenous mayors who choose whether or not to allow their Mayan identity to influence their governing practice. At the same time, the indigenous Maya Movement tries to contribute to the building of a multicultural democracy. The Maya Movement’s mission is the social and political integration of the indigenous population in Guatemalan society, based on Mayan identity. It focuses on active political participation being part of their universal and ethnic civil rights.

Sonja Knols | alfa
Further information:
http://www.nwo.nl
http://www.nwo.nl/nwohome.nsf/pages/NWOA_7EFDPN_Eng

More articles from Social Sciences:

nachricht Amazingly flexible: Learning to read in your thirties profoundly transforms the brain
26.05.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Kognitions- und Neurowissenschaften

nachricht Fixating on faces
26.01.2017 | California Institute of Technology

All articles from Social Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Can we see monkeys from space? Emerging technologies to map biodiversity

An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.

Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...

Im Focus: Climate satellite: Tracking methane with robust laser technology

Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.

Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...

Im Focus: How protons move through a fuel cell

Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.

As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...

Im Focus: A unique data centre for cosmological simulations

Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.

With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...

Im Focus: Scientists develop molecular thermometer for contactless measurement using infrared light

Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine

Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Plants are networkers

19.06.2017 | Event News

Digital Survival Training for Executives

13.06.2017 | Event News

Global Learning Council Summit 2017

13.06.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Quantum thermometer or optical refrigerator?

23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

A 100-year-old physics problem has been solved at EPFL

23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Equipping form with function

23.06.2017 | Information Technology

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>