Over the years, the MLCP's interdisciplinary working groups have created a space for creative engagement between indigenous intellectuals and Indiana University scholars working on issues that encompass indigenous politics, cultural performance and language. All working groups have shared the aim of revitalizing subordinate languages while stimulating long-overdue dialogue between applied linguists, social scientists, and policy-makers on the one hand, and historians, anthropologists, and cultural critics on the other. The role of ethnic markers in the reproduction of local cultures in the era of globalization is especially pertinent. While global processes tend to erode local cultural forms, those same pressures frequently embolden different forms of resistance, often based on the strategic deployment of essentialized ethnic markers. In an era of increased global flows of people and capital and the concomitant weakening of traditional forms of nation-state sovereignty, the question of how subordinate languages and cultures might survive (however transformed) becomes extraordinarily salient. Our graduate and faculty research is not limited to Latin American minority languages per se but rather probes all subordinate cultural forms and the larger political and economic frameworks in which they operate.
MLCP Working Groups
Quetzil E. Castañeda has been teaching and doing research on Maya language at IU since 2008. Maya is the proper name of one of the 32 Mayan languages that comprise the Mayan language family and is spoken in the Yucatán Peninsula and in diasporic communities in the USA by over 1.5 million ethnic Maya speakers. Maya refers to both the specific ethnic-cultural group of speakers of Maya from their Yucatán homeland and to the umbrella ethnic-cultural term of identification of other Maya groups all of whom most commonly identify by the Mayan language that they speak in the homelands in Guatemala, Belize, and other the state of Chiapas, México. Over the last ten years he has developed a set of year long courses for Beginning, Intermediate and Advanced Maya for English speakers. Currently, with support from the Department of Education Title VI funding, he completing the publication of a Beginning Maya course that focuses on conversations competencies including extensive authentic audio-video materials to support lessons and learning exercises. Castañeda’s project includes the completion of a Maya-English dictionary and a pedagogical book on Maya cultural concepts and ways of life in relation to the everyday use of Maya language. His work is based in the Maya community of Pisté, 3 kilometers from Chichén Itzá, Yucatán, México, and involves collaborations with Maya and Yucatec scholars from the Universidad Intercultural Maya de Quintana Roo (UIMQRoo), which is located in José María Morelos, Quintana Roo.
Since the mid 1970s, John McDowell has been actively engaged in research concerning the Quechua language and the people who speak it. The bulk of this work has concentrated on Inga, the northernmost dialect of Quechua, and the Inga communities in the Sibundoy Valley, Department of Putumayo, of highland Colombia. He also worked extensively with Kamsá, a language isolate derived from the ancient Quillasinga stock, also spoken in Colombia's Sibundoy Valley. His earliest Quechua research was with speakers of Bolivian Quechua, and he is currently working with two extended families residing in the environs of Otavalo, in the north of Ecuador, whose members speak the dialect called Quichua. His research falls into the broad category of the ethnography of communication, paying close attention to traditional narrative, ceremonial speech forms, and song lyrics, in an effort to illuminate the role these expressive forms play in personal, social, and political contexts. Currently, he is documenting and theorizing the efforts of Indigenous communities in Colombia and Ecuador to preserve their territories, along with their languages and cultures, in the face of invasive development projects and the environmental degradation they bring with them
Shane Greene has conducted research on the impact of multicultural reforms in Peru on both indigenous and Afro-descendant peoples. After several years of research into the history of the Amazonian movement, he expanded his focus to the national level. In collaboration with a variety of indigenous and Afro-Peruvian activist organizations, he has investigated the possibilities and obstacles to ethnic alliance building in negotiations with the multicultural state.
The Pipil project began in 2003 with graduate student Pablo Garcia Loaeza's trip to the small town of Santo Domingo de Guzmán, El Salvador. As part of the community's effort to record and teach their disappearing language, Pablo recorded interviews with some of the town's last speakers of Nahuatl-Pipil. At IU, we digitized the interviews and created an initial version of a Pipil multimedia language-learning CD.
Hilary E. Kahn's research on the Atlantic coast of Guatemala explores how the Q'eqchi' Maya in Livingston see themselves as part of an enduring, yet ever–changing, network of relations–social and cosmological linkages between deities, outsiders, owners, and other beings who constantly shift back and forth between positions of power, personae, visibility, and meaning. Visuality and its political differentials–whether one is the object of sight or the subject of seeing–ultimately supports the practice and codification of this imaginary model.