Who Counts?: The Mathematics of Death and Life after Genocide
Diane M. Nelson is Professor of Cultural Anthropology at Duke University and the author of A Finger in the Wound: Body Politics in Quincentennial Guatemala; she is also the author of Reckoning: The Ends of War in Guatemala and coeditor of War by Other Means: Aftermath in Post-Genocide Guatemala, both also published by Duke University Press.
Before and After-Math
This chapter addresses the recent history of war, human rights struggles, and the Mayan movement in Guatemala. It describes two phases of Mayan Organizing, 1.0 (1985–ca. 1999) and 2.0 (the twenty-first century); both phases are struggling to overcome the wartime divide between “political” and “culturalist” activism. The chapter discusses efforts to revive and share knowledge about Mayan mathematics, including daykeeping and base-20 calculations, in the context of what became popularly known as “the Maya apocalypse” of 2012 and situates them in relation to the ongoing apocalypse of the genocide and attempts to survive the violent and economically precarious present. In addressing “counting Maya” in terms of census statistics and “what counts” as Maya, as in how many Mayan languages there are and what Mayan identity means more generally, the chapter introduces themes of quantity’s qualifications and relations between the individual and the aggregate.