Ethnoexodus: Maya Topographic Ruptures
Ethnogenesis is a concept that seeks to explain the historical creation of Maya identity through demarcated eras and epochs such as: ‘the Classic’ ‘the Fall’ ‘prehistory’ ‘prehispanic’ ‘pre-Columbian’ ‘colonial’ ‘post-colonial’ ‘modernity’ ‘neoliberal’. Ethnogenesis uses these somewhat arbitrary historical markers as a constructivist, essentialist artifact that determines specific spatial and temporal social topographies. Not coincidentally, these moments and places are often signaled in economic, political or military conflict in which identity is thought to be constituted; as such, ethnogenesis exercises epistemic control over “politically correct” discourse about inequality. In Yucatec Maya ethnogenesis, socio-historical topography is contextualized concretely with the Spanish Conquest (and its subsequent imposition of the race concept); the Caste War of the 19th century, and the emergence of ethnic politics in the 20th century.
The concept of ethnoexodus is a critique of the notion ethnogenesis as a way of understanding “Maya” identity, and identity formation in general. Ethnoexodus seeks to illustrate how ethnogenesis relates to the Western Imaginary and its production of the ethnos as an assumed oppositional category. Hence, whereas ethnogenesis proposes through eras and epochs the “birth” or the coming into being “Maya” as ethnos, ethnoexodus focuses on how an individual or social actor can “exit” a temporal “point” of identity suture without having ever necessarily been “in” that particular topographic construction. Simultaneously ethnoexodus conveys how an individual or social actor may traverse, survey, embody, and ultimately interpellate spatial and temporal territories of identification that multiply his or her already numerous identity formations.
In contrast to the apparent genesis of the ethnos, the mobility between identities constitutes what we consider an exodus of the ethnos through topographic ruptures. Thus through these epistemic breaks and Maya ruptures, what is strategically forgotten or retained through time and space? And how is identity formation perpetually crossing, changing and moving beyond imaginaries?
Keywords: Ethnoexodus, Ethnogenesis, Maya Identity, Yucatan, Mexico, Transethnos, Iknal, Habitus
Dr. Juan Castillo Cocom
Professor, Universidad Inter-cultural Maya de Quintana Roo and University of California
He also collaborates with University of California, Berkeley's Center for Latino Policy Research on Maya identity politics Yucatec Maya migrants in San Francisco. Juan Castillo Cocom teaches a graduate seminar on the concept of "ethnoexodus," a conceptual framework that critically engages the movement in and out of identities within contexts of multiplicities and the proliferation of indigeneities. He teaches at the Universidad Inter-cultural Maya de Quintana Roo and Universidad Pedagógica Nacional-Mérida and has taught at Florida International University, the Universidad Autónoma de Yucatán, CINVESTAV, the Universidad de la Habana, Cuba, and a Visiting Assistant Professor in the Department of Anthropology at University of California, Berkeley
PhD Candidate, Department of Anthropology, University of California, Berkeley