Indigenous Religion and Cultural Performance in the New Maya World


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Finally I hope to return to my roots in anthropology completing a book on the narrative tradition of peasant Maya villagers of the 20th century. I am fascinated by stories, by the order that lies beneath the surface of a collection of narratives from a specific time and place. That order condenses the social and psychological experience of the people who tell the stories and use them to justify their institutions, advance their political objectives, and guide their lives.

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I have been teaching anthropology since , at Baylor since , and I have mostly taught humanistic cultural anthropology in a liberal arts tradition and have always worked in undergraduate only programs. With the exception of my field schools I have not taught the nuts and bolts of research methods, but have engaged my students in considering and critiquing visions of how things are and sometimes how they could be, in both the professional world view of anthropology, and by critiquing other visions from the perspective of anthropology.

For me the most exciting teaching involves telling a compelling story, and hearing the compelling stories of others in readings or in class discussion.

The Maya People (*PART 1 of 2) : History, Culture & Affiliations

Everything else fades away and we are transported to a creative ground. My best teaching is an improvisational undertaking starting with a script or plan but then going beyond it, behind it, and exploring the terrain that it opens with those in the class who are willing to explore.

I strive for intellectual honesty lived out publicly. Readings, structured experiential encounters, lectures and research seek answers to questions but are also points of departure for thinking and elaboration.

MASKS OF THE SPIRIT

William Perry studied students at Harvard over several decades and developed a model for the evolution of thinking in traditional year old undergrads. He found that freshmen exhibited black and white thinking, but that by graduation many students had developed complex situational and relativistic thinking. He believed that a liberal arts education should have the goal of facilitating this process by challenging simplistic black and white thinking early on and then by modelling a relativism that was sensitive to context and analytical and critical, but that helped students to move beyond the extreme moral relativism that often appeared in the evolution of the capacity for mature thinking, but disastrously sometimes was the end product.


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For me this was a prediction of the post-modern fad that nearly derailed cultural anthropology, and it is a moral imperative to model critical analytical thinking and to help my students develop mature intelligence. Once I loosened up and shifted the emphasis in my teaching from contents to interaction I became popular and gained a following. I tried to develop a style of teaching appropriate for a mature professional, which was a challenge as I did not feel like one.

What saved me for the next 20 some years was my ethnographic field schools that allowed motivated students to participate with me in my research and allowed me to introduce them to another world.

Film List: Indigenous Religions

I renewed my focus as a Mayanist and scholar and my teaching benefitted. I have now transitioned into the grandparental generation. I think the key to good teaching in this stage of life is to focus on perennial problems that are reborn in each generation, both in anthropology and life, and to share the wisdom of an elder.

In press. Edited by Hilary Callan. NY: Wiley Blackwell. Garrett Cook and Thomas Offit.

Indigenous Religion and Cultural Performance in the New Maya World Indigenous Religion and Cultural Performance in the New Maya World
Indigenous Religion and Cultural Performance in the New Maya World Indigenous Religion and Cultural Performance in the New Maya World
Indigenous Religion and Cultural Performance in the New Maya World Indigenous Religion and Cultural Performance in the New Maya World
Indigenous Religion and Cultural Performance in the New Maya World Indigenous Religion and Cultural Performance in the New Maya World
Indigenous Religion and Cultural Performance in the New Maya World Indigenous Religion and Cultural Performance in the New Maya World
Indigenous Religion and Cultural Performance in the New Maya World Indigenous Religion and Cultural Performance in the New Maya World

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