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The Face of the World: A Study on the Cosmological among the K’iche’ Maya of Momostenango

Zamora Corona, Alonso Rodrigo; (2021) The Face of the World: A Study on the Cosmological among the K’iche’ Maya of Momostenango. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

The relationship between cosmology and social life has been a long-standing theoretical problem in anthropology: why do people in many different societies often assert that their social actions proceed not from themselves, but from ancestors, gods and cosmological forces? Despite general calls for a holistic understanding of social life and native ideas, cosmology as a topic in social anthropology has been understood in a reductionist sense, as a system of representations that ‘justifies’ or guides the actions of people within a social system, a reflection of more ‘real’ or ‘rational’ underlying notions uncovered by the anthropologist. Inspired by non-reductionist models of causation which arose in the study of emergence in biological systems, this thesis proposes to understand cosmological action in social life as an instance of “downward causation”, a phenomenon where a high-level entity may influence and exert causation upon its own constituent parts. Inspired by my own ethnographic study of the cosmology of the K’iche’ Maya of Guatemala and its influence in concrete lives, I propose a twist to former sociological applications of this concept. In K’iche’ cosmology, sacred altars are actual containers of copies of cosmological entities and powers; by interacting with these places, people can act interact with ancestors and the gods, changing their own social fortunes and even acting in behalf of cosmological forces. Following the proposals of the ‘ontological turn’ to take people’s conceptions about their own social experiences seriously, I propose that, in anthropology, downward causation must be ‘flipped upside down’ to better grasp the point of view of the other: instead of conceiving cosmology as an emergent property of social systems which acts upon its own constituent parts, we should understand social agents as emergent properties of cosmological systems, defined by their capacity of exerting cosmological actions upon social life.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: The Face of the World: A Study on the Cosmological among the K’iche’ Maya of Momostenango
Event: UCL (University College London)
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright © The Author 2021. Original content in this thesis is licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) Licence (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/). Any third-party copyright material present remains the property of its respective owner(s) and is licensed under its existing terms. Access may initially be restricted at the author’s request.
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Dept of Anthropology
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10127490
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