Mayan imaginaries of democracy: Interactive sovereignties and political affect in postrevolutionary Guatemala

by Nicholas Copeland

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Mayan farmers in rural northwest Guatemala perceive the U.S. Department of Agriculture fruit-fly eradication program, MOSCAMED, as a government and agribusiness scheme designed to addict them to agrochemicals by despoiling subsistence agriculture. This bitterly accusative view depicts the state, capital, and U.S. government as interlinked sovereigns willing to kill and harm hapless Mayas. Considering political processes in the town of San Pedro Necta in light of local mistrust of and engagement with MOSCAMED, I argue that neoliberal democracy extends an affective imaginary of defeat produced by decades of counterinsurgency warfare through targeted violence and by exchanging meager resources for complicity with racial dispossession. My research findings illuminate how Mayas live the violence of neoliberal democracy and navigate a thicket of sovereignties, including ones widely viewed as predicated on their collective misery. They also reframe Mayan participation in authoritarian politics since the 1996 peace accords.