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PLENARY CONFERENCE. August 9th. 17:00 hours.


Virginia University

Eve Danziger spring 2023

Eve Danziger received her PhD degree in linguistic anthropology from the University of Pennsylvania in 1991 and was a Senior Research Fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics in the Netherlands 1991-1997. She then joined the faculty at the University of Virginia, U.S.A. where she is now Professor of Anthropology and Linguistics. Her research draws on long-term fieldwork-based research with the Mopan (Mayan) people of Eastern Central America, with whom she investigates the role of language in the construction of indigenous knowledge. She is particularly interested in cultural variation in understandings of kinship, space, intersubjectivity and the mind. At the broadest intellectual level, she asks how the categories of individual thought are shaped by those of socially shared but culturally particular convention and culture.










Speaking of others: Christianity as social distinction in Indigenous Latin America

Eve Danziger

Virginia University. USA.

 In the Mayan languages of the Central American Peten, as in certain other Indigenous languages of Latin America, the general word for a human being is the borrowed Spanish cristiano.  A first response to this linguistic fact might assume that such a borrowing indicates extraordinary or unanimous enthusiasm for Christian conversion in the population concerned. But linguistic-anthropological investigation of the circumstances surrounding the borrowing reveal otherwise. Within this region, the Mopan Maya subscribe to an ideology of language that dictates faithful oral transmission of traditional stories. Mopan oral histories have therefore preserved for over three hundred years various precise details of their first encounter with Spanish missionaries.  These Mopan histories allow us to explore the social and linguistic situation in which the adoption of cristiano as a general term for humanity took place. The analysis of such histories suggests that the borrowing was adopted in a context of significant Mopan resistance to Christian conversion, and that it testifies to an extended period in which Christianized Mopan living in Spanish mission villages co-existed as neighbours and trading partners with their non-baptized kinfolk, whose settlements remained in their original forest locations. The word cristiano was borrowed in short, in Mopan and perhaps in other languages, in order to contrast those few Indigenous people who accepted Christianity in the early years of contact with the significant numbers who did not.  





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