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This presentation discusses our approach to Maya literature and other forms of artistic expression in Unwriting Maya Literature: Ts’íib as Recorded Knowledge. We offer a departure from theoretical approaches that remain situated within alphabetic Maya linguistic and literary creation by building on the work of Maya authors and intellectuals such as Q’anjob’al Gaspar Pedro González and Kaqchikel Irma Otzoy, and privilege the Maya category ts'íib to move beyond the literary. Ts’íib refers to a broad range of artistic production from painted codices and textiles to works composed in Latin script, as well as plastic arts, and we argue that texts by contemporary Maya writers must be read as dialoguing with a multimodal Indigenous understanding of text. In other words, ts’íib is an alternative to understanding “writing” that does not stand in opposition to but rather fully encompasses alphabetic writing, placing it alongside and in dialogue with a number of other forms of recorded knowledge. This shift in focus allows for a critical reexamination of the role that weaving and bodily performance play in these literatures, as well as for a nuanced understanding of how Maya writers articulate decolonial Maya aesthetics in their works. We will also address some of the challenges that we faced in shifting our thinking and approach from the “literary” to ts’íib and possible directions going forward.
Indigenous Languages and Literatures