Brush Lecture (AIA): Maya Cultural Heritage

How Archaeologists and Indigenous Peoples Create and Conserve the Past

Patricia McAnany

University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

Situated at the intersection of cultural heritage and local community, this lecture enlarges understanding of indigenous Maya peoples of southern México and northern Central America by examining their relationship to a much valorized but distant past. Highlights are presented of grass-root cultural heritage programs located in southern México, Guatemala, Belize, and Honduras that were conceived in collaborative style and implemented over the past eight years. These programs emphasize participatory research methods and a style of pedagogy that de-centers the production of archaeological knowledge. Central to this effort is cultivating a closer relationship between ethno-linguistic Mayan communities and the practice of archaeology as well as the objects of archaeological study. The compelling need for an effective grass-roots approach to heritage conservation has been another guiding principle of these programs. The dialogue that is encouraged by such heritage programs is building new epistemic communities of archaeological practice in which collaboration between indigenous Maya peoples and archaeologists result in the creation and conservation of the past.

Patricia A. McAnany, Kenan Eminent Professor of Anthropology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, is a Maya archaeologist who has conducted field research and cultural heritage programs through the Maya region. Her professional interests include the intersection of ritual and economy, ancestor veneration, the creation and abandonment of place, and the cross threading of cultural heritage with indigenous identities. She founded the Maya Area Cultural Heritage Initiative ( and co-founded InHerit: Indigenous Heritage Passed to Present ( She is the author/co-editor of several books, most recently Textile Economies: Power & Value from the Local to the Transnational (2011) co-edited with Walter E. Little; Ancestral Maya Economies in Archaeological Perspective (2010); Questioning Collapse: Human Resilience, Ecological Vulnerability, and the Aftermath of Empire (2009) co-edited with Norman Yoffee; and Dimensions of Ritual Economy (2008) co-edited with E. Christian Wells. She is the recipient of several research awards from the National Science Foundation and of fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Institute for the Arts & Humanities (UNC, Chapel Hill), the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Radcliffe Center for Advanced Study at Harvard University.

Admission to lecture closes 10 minutes after scheduled start time.

Reception to follow.

Please check for event updates.