Accepted Paper:

The agency of the divine: Maya intimacy with mountains and crosses  


Jan Kapusta (University of Hradec Kralove)

Paper short abstract:

The paper considers the intimacy between humans and non-humans in contemporary Maya religious movements. It is argued that their mutual ritual communication is a practice of cosmos where the divine agents are perceived as being-in-this-world, and operating in a religious field and network of actors.

Paper long abstract:

The importance of mountains and crosses persists among contemporary Maya, be it syncretic traditionalists, cultural activists, or even Protestants. The intimacy between humans and non-humans, such as "spirits", "guardians" or "owners" of mountains and crosses, is not only represented by Maya shamanic ceremonies (costumbres), but also restored by Pentecostal energetic rites (ayunos). But why does this ritual communication endure throughout all of these religious movements of current dynamic and globalized world? Cognitive anthropologists like Boyer or Bloch seek the origin of the human pervasive affection related to the divine in "counter-intuitiveness" or "false consciousness", respectively. On the other hand, political anthropologists like Taussig or Nash consider spiritual beings as expressions of colonial dominance, subordination or resistance. From my point of view, however, there is a third way of how to deal with the problem, drawing on cultural phenomenology which concerns a particular cosmology embedded in the everyday experience of the world. The Maya perceive deities as visible, tangible and living agents, analogous and complementary to humans, who participate together in the cyclical course of the world. Their mutual intimate ritual communication is the way the world works and, thus, the collusion or collision of society and cosmos rest on that. Following Bourdieu's understanding of the religious field which is not completely overlapped by the political one, and Latour's conception of the network which does not discriminate non-human actors, I consider deities as non-reducible agents perceived as being-in-this-world, and operating in a religious field and network of actors.

Panel P073
Religious intimacy: collaboration, collusion and collision in ritual communication