Accepted paper:

Transmission of the culture of the perishable over generations: some lessons from Mayan studies


Kazuyasu Ochiai

Paper short abstract:

No one constructs pyramids among the Maya today. Thousands of contemporary Mayan weavers, however, make textiles with designs that go back to the 8th century. If such perishable culture has successfully transmitted the ancient civilization to today, how has it been possible? What does it suggest?

Paper long abstract:

We tend to choose durable materials - stones, ceramics and metals, among others - as the most significant cultural evidence, perhaps because, as we are by nature ephemeral, there exists in us a desire to endure over time. Modern museums and their systematic conservation technology represent this philosophy of the culture of the durable. In contrast, the Mayan culture, and perhaps many other cultures of the world, including that of the speaker, who is Japanese, seem to pay more attention to constant renewal than to antiquity itself. Each item or each action of the culture of the perishable - ways of alignment, textiles, gestures, for example - falls under the premise that it must be destructible or disappear shortly, as the human body. However, the culture of the perishable survives, paradoxically thanks to its own transient nature, since it is necessary to copy, reproduce and renew perishable patterns continuously and successively. As an example of the culture of the perishable, the speaker takes the interrelationship among social order, textile designs and the concept of the human body of the Tzotzil of southern Mexico. The study suggests certain fundamental aspects of cultural transmission from one generation to another - one of the important topics of general anthropology - and will challenge the Cartesian tilt to the culture of the durable, immanent in modern scholarship.

panel P052
The future with/of Maya anthropology