The House in the Market: Kinship, Status, and Memory Among Q'Eqchi' Market Women in San Juan Chamelco, Guatemala
Kistler, S. Ashley, 1978- (author)
Hellweg, Joseph (professor co-directing dissertation)
Grindal, Bruce (professor co-directing dissertation)
Herrera, Robinson (outside committee member)
Pohl, Mary (committee member)
Uzendoski, Michael (committee member)
Department of Anthropology (degree granting department)
Florida State University (degree granting institution)
This dissertation explores how Q'eqchi' market women in San Juan Chamelco, Guatemala use capitalist exchange spheres to generate personhood, persons, and kinship. Women use local kin categories to establish themselves as marketers and construct themselves as persons of stature in their local social hierarchy. I argue that the Q'eqchi' define kinship according to the local category of the junkab'al or 'house', a social group based on shared residence and participation in household activities that encompasses the categories of genealogical relatedness, consanguinity, affinity, and adoption. Since marketing is a family occupation in Chamelco, Q'eqchi' market women achieve positions of stature through their houses' longstanding participation in the marketplace. Many contemporary marketers trace their family market histories back for generations, relating that their mothers, grandmothers, or great-grandmothers also sold in the market. Chamelqueños view marketing as the inheritance or gifts passed down to them by their most ancient ancestors. As a result, marketing becomes a vocation for many of Chamelco's women, who state that they market because they were "called by their ancestors" to do so. The prestige (prestigio) that women acquire through marketing stems in part from the fact that the Q'eqchi' view marketing as an ancient and thus valued profession. In this respect, Q'eqchi' marketers establish themselves as persons of stature by tapping into the perceived ancient Maya tradition of marketing. Market women further enhance their high status by gaining recognition as marketers. In the market, they enact local notions of value, centered on demonstrating intelligence and wisdom, showing compassion and morality, proving their work ethic, and achieving immortality. They reinforce their high status by developing extensive social relations with clients, vendors, and visitors to the market who view them as worthy of emulation. Women embody these relations, which tie them to numerous high status activities, such as ritual cofradías, compadrazgo, politics, and the National Folkloric Festival. Market women often emerge as leaders of these highly-valued domains, thus reinforcing their positions of stature in Chamelco. Nevertheless, in Chamelco, Q'eqchi' women market to define their personhood and construct high status identities for themselves and for their families. Through marketing, they also revere their ancestors who sold in the market and keep them alive as a part of the market's reality. Marketing is a form of memory for Chamelco's market women, who perform narratives about their market ancestors throughout daily market life, recalling their time in the market, their strength, and their endurance. They tell these tales to clients, other vendors, and other community members as a means of incorporating their ancestors into contemporary market life. By doing so, market women not only honor their ancestors, who remain an integral part of their stalls, but also legitimize their own roles in the market and the community by connecting themselves to the strength of the past. This connection to the past serves a powerful tool for market women and their families by legitimizing their positions in Guatemala's national social hierarchy. Market positions, then, serve as important household possessions that embody junkab'al identity, keeping the junkab'al and its defining members at the forefront of Chamelco's historical memory. Because of the significant role marketing plays in family life, market women strive to ensure that market positions stay in the family. To do so, they draw on the local category of the junkab'al to designate their market heirs. By selecting their market heirs from among their female house members, including biological and adopted daughters, goddaughters, and employees, market women ensure that market titles, which define their personhood and generate their houses, remain associated with their houses over time. This research breaks new theoretical ground by illuminating the link between kinship and market exchange, demonstrating that indigenous marketers use market positions as inheritable possessions that embody their families' identities. Market women are mediators of value who use capitalist exchange spheres (M-C-M1) to generate persons and houses (M-C-P). By exploring kinship and marketing as mutually encompassing institutions, this research shows that local kinship notions shape one's participation in both gift and alienated exchange networks. Additionally this research contributes to the growing body of critical literature on indigenous kinship systems by exploring Q'eqchi' notions of shared substance. This ethnography presents the only complete analysis of Q'eqchi' kinship and of the house as a category of contemporary Maya kinship. By exploring the role of the house in the market, this research presents a new, more holistic model of the house, which considers it as a fluid social unit emerging through its interaction with other prominent social domains, including exchange.
Continuity, Gender, Maya, Marketing, Exchange
February 28, 2007.
A Dissertation submitted to the Department of Anthropology in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
Includes bibliographical references.
Joseph Hellweg, Professor Co-Directing Dissertation; Bruce Grindal, Professor Co-Directing Dissertation; Robinson Herrera, Outside Committee Member; Mary Pohl, Committee Member; Michael Uzendoski, Committee Member.
Florida State University
This Item is protected by copyright and/or related rights. You are free to use this Item in any way that is permitted by the copyright and related rights legislation that applies to your use. For other uses you need to obtain permission from the rights-holder(s). The copyright in theses and dissertations completed at Florida State University is held by the students who author them.