The Chicken and the Quetzal: Incommensurate Ontologies and Portable Values in Guatemala's Cloud Forest
From Measurement to Meaning: Standardizing and Certifying Homes and Their Inhabitance
2016. "From Measurement to Meaning: Standardizing and Certifying Homes and Their Inhabitance", The Chicken and the Quetzal: Incommensurate Ontologies and Portable Values in Guatemala's Cloud Forest, Paul Kockelman
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This chapter uses the institution of replacement (as it plays out in the context of labor pooling and house building) as a lens to examine long-term transformations in social relations brought on by the NGO’s ecotourism project. It analyzes what happens to local values when there are pressures for people, objects, and activities to change from being equivalent (via the local system of replacement) to being commensurate (via the money-making opportunities initiated by ecotourism). And it tracks how local ontologies, and the values embedded therein, enable and constrain the recoding of such values and the rechanneling of such pressures. It argues that, whereas replacement was once a condition for local values (constituting, as it were, the systematic provisioning of social life), irreplaceability (as opposed to commensurability per se) became, for those villagers implicated in the ecotourism project, a value in itself.