The Rab'inal Achi, a Maya drama originating in the sixteenth century, contains an encoded discourse about the human body. Using four components—the heart, the whole body, the navel, and the head—this play explores and negotiates the territorial disputes of the Maya region during the time in which it was written and performed. An examination of the cultural symbolism of each of these body parts reveals that the Rab'inal Achi uses them to talk indirectly about territory, thereby producing a less risky discourse to resolve bellic conflicts. Furthermore, by drawing on performance theory, we gain deeper understanding of the unique ability of performative drama and the body to negotiate conflict and serve as a repository of sociocultural meaning.
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Elizabeth R. Bell; Geographic Mapping, Social Mapping: The Human Body in the Rab'inal Achi. Ethnohistory 1 January 2016; 63 (1): 29–46. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00141801-3325374
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