Interactional Power in Colonial Yucatán
In the present study, I articulate an interactionist model of power relations using the sociological framework of Symbolic Interactionism. After presenting a model of power relations, I identify instances of power in colonial and early post-colonial Yucatán, analyzing colonial and contemporary texts on Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula. I define power as a process, rather than a latent capacity or the mere possibility of action. Interactional power is demonstrated through 1) processes or interactions, such as discourse and communication, 2) negotiation, 3) the control or manipulation of resources, and 4) legal and social rule-setting, or the construction of systems within which interaction occurs. In the context of colonial Yucatán, Maya communities experienced the loss of physical and cultural resources, and the imposition of non-Maya social, legal, economic, and religious systems. I argue that the interactions leading to this divestment and the replacement of indigenous Maya systems must be understood as interactions of power, or the manifestation of power vis-à-vis interaction. On occasion, Mayas in colonial Yucatán successfully negotiated legal contracts or other civil disputes, using non-Maya legal systems to their own benefit and mitigating the impact of conquest and colonization. Nevertheless, non-Maya colonials more frequently—and more successfully—demonstrated the use of power through negotiation. With regard to resource use or appropriation, non-Maya colonials utilized an array of methods to divest Maya individuals and communities of physical and cultural resources. Forced labor, religious and secular oversight of Maya community funds, tribute requirements, and ownership of commercial enterprises characterized the interactions between Mayas and non-Mayas throughout the colonial period. Finally, regarding social, religious, legal, and economic structures, non-Maya systems largely displaced those of the Mayas by the end of the colonial period. The inequalities evident between Mayas and non-Mayas in colonial and early post-colonial Yucatán did not result from inherent differences or the superiority of non-Mayas during the conquest and colonization of the Yucatán Peninsula. Rather, dynamic interactions between individuals and groups demonstrated varied expressions of power throughout the colonial period and beyond. Yucatec Mayas were not, at all times and in all places, disadvantaged by their interactions with non-Mayas, and neither were non-Mayas always the beneficiaries of those interactions. Nonetheless, non-Mayas did leverage resources and systems to their benefit more often than Mayas in both the colonial and post-colonial periods. Non-Mayas throughout the colonial period generally controlled or had greater access to resources, more successfully negotiated terms of contracts or disputes with Maya individuals and communities, and firmly established their own social, religious, economic, and legal systems over and above those of the Mayas.
Advisor: Starrs, Roy; Paredes, Jorge
Degree Name: Doctor of Philosophy
Degree Discipline: Department of Languages and Cultures
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: Symbolic; Interactionism; Yucatán; Mexico; Power; Colonial; Maya
Research Type: Thesis