Dr Alejandro Manuel Flores Aguilar: "Raised Gaze in Ixil Time: Towards a Minor History of War"

Event date: 
Wednesday 2 February
A picture of Dr Alejandro Manuel Flores Aguilar

An IASH Work-in-Progress seminar, delivered by Dr Alejandro Manuel Flores Aguilar (CSMCH-IASH Visiting Postdoctoral Fellow in Modern and Contemporary History 2022; University of Texas at Austin):

Raised Gaze in Ixil Time: Towards a Minor History of War

This research examines Maya-Ixil memories of indigenous resistance during the last quarter of the twentieth century in Guatemala. I highlight the continuities and discontinuities of ancestral world-building practices (or ontologies) within forms of indigenous political organization across the armed insurrection of the 1970s and contemporary post-war and post-genocidal struggles. These forms include armed guerrilla operations, communities in resistance, collaborations with lawyers in transitional justice and human rights trials, the communal organization—namely the Alcaldías Indígenas Ixiles—in defense of the Ixil territory, the reconstruction of the ancestral authority and the creation of the Ixil University. This research builds upon my video-ethnographic and collaborative work undertaken between 2015 and 2021, with former indigenous participants in the Guerrilla Army of the Poor (EGP – Ejército Guerrillero de los Pobres), which was active in Ixil territory between 1970s and 1990s.

This research explores how local Maya-Ixil politics entangled with other processes of politicization that emerged during the second half of the twentieth century, such as Marxist class-based movements and liberation theology. In this regard, ancestral world-building practices in Ixil communities—that were directly targeted by 19th century coffee-plantation capitalism and counterinsurgency scorched earth campaigns—played a key role in the Maya-Ixil revolt. This study shines new light on a side of this violent history that has been obscured by state actors and institutions, and their readiness to understand indigenous peoples as incapable of possessing political agency, as easy prey for ideological manipulation, and as expendable matter for a war fought between foreign entities (the USA and USSR). This study builds upon a memory repertoire of video-recorded life stories of Maya-Ixil former guerrilleros (armed combatants) and video-ethnographic resources that reveal Maya-Ixil politics, epistemology and daily life ethics. By restoring human ethnography to political history, my research shows that complex sociopolitical contexts feature complex cultural developments. This is especially the case in Guatemala, where cultural and racial difference were mobilized in the name of capitalism based on land usurpation and forced labor, deployed in counterinsurgent genocidal violence.

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