Accessibility navigation

The use of objects in the construction, expression and negotiation of identities: a case study of Maya dolls from Mexico and Guatemala

Jackson, E. V. (2021) The use of objects in the construction, expression and negotiation of identities: a case study of Maya dolls from Mexico and Guatemala. PhD thesis, University of Reading

Text - Thesis
· Please see our End User Agreement before downloading.

[img] Text - Thesis Deposit Form
· Restricted to Repository staff only


It is advisable to refer to the publisher's version if you intend to cite from this work. See Guidance on citing.

To link to this item DOI: 10.48683/1926.00107017


This thesis examines an under-assessed and under-valued cultural text: the souvenir doll. These dolls, clothed in national, regional or ethnic dress, have often been dismissed as “kitsch” objects of little ethnographic or aesthetic significance. However, by focusing on dolls handmade for the tourist market by the Kaqchikel Maya of San Antonio Aguas Calientes, Guatemala and the Tzotzil Maya of Chamula in Chiapas, Mexico, this thesis demonstrates the importance of these dolls for the expression and construction of a range of identity categories, both for their producers and receivers. These dolls are notable since they are dressed in the same type of handwoven textiles as the women who usually make them. By extending the life story approaches associated with Igor Kopytoff (1986) and Arjun Appadurai (1986) to the source materials that form an object, this thesis traces the production of these dolls from thread level and, in doing so, captures the profound importance of the weaving process and woven textiles for the construction and expression of Maya identities at a personal and collective level. This thesis continues to apply a life story approach to trace the various paths the dolls may take once they have been sold. UK-based fieldwork, along with data collected in Guatemala and Mexico, shows that when the dolls are consumed they are reconfigured to meet the identity needs of the consumer. This reconfiguration, however, often simultaneously flattens or erases the local specificities and indigenous identities embodied by the dolls. This thesis demonstrates that dolls produced by indigenous people specifically for external consumption can be read as texts that reveal important socio-political processes and effects and, more specifically, offers a unique exploration of the production and consumption of Maya dolls that is further enhanced by its comparative, cross-border scope.

Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Thesis Supervisor:Kumaraswami, P.
Thesis/Report Department:School of Literature and Languages
Identification Number/DOI:
Divisions:Arts, Humanities and Social Science > School of Literature and Languages > Languages and Cultures
ID Code:107017
Date on Title Page:February 2020


Downloads per month over past year

University Staff: Request a correction | Centaur Editors: Update this record

Page navigation