Stumped Identities: Body Image, Bodies Politic, and the Mujer Maya as Prosthetic

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Essay Excerpt

This article explores the way the Guatemalan nation, ladinos (nonindigenous people), the burgeoning Mayan cultural rights movement, and gringa feminism deploy the Mayan woman, or la mujer Maya as I call this discursive construct, as a prosthetic. I suggest that these identifications (nation, ethnicity, and gender) are like wounded bodies and rely on supports like the imagined Mayan woman in order to exist. The prosthetic makes up for something missing, it covers an opening, and as Allucquere Rosanne Stone (1995) suggests, it overcomes a lack of presence. I argue that for the Guatemalan nation-state the mujer Maya overcomes the missing Mayan representation in the recent peace process and, like a peg leg, supports the nation's limping political economy. For the Mayan cultural rights movement, which must prove itself appropriate to modernity while retaining the tradition that legitimates it, "she" fills in this impossible divide. The mujer Maya also serves to support first world anthropology trying to be in solidarity with building peace and strengthening rights while being "feminist" (314).

Nelson, D. M. "Stumped Identities: Body Image, Bodies Politic, and the Mujer Maya as Prosthetic." Cultural Anthropology 16.3(2001): 314–353.

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