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Gillespie, Susan D. The Extended Person in Maya Ontology
2021, Estudios Latinoamericanos, 41: 105 – 127
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Added by: M. Jimena Clavel Vázquez and Andrés Hernández Villarreal

For the Maya reality is a unified whole within which every entity shares in the same fundamental animating principle. This is a relational ontology whereby no phenomenon is self-contained but emerges from relations with others, including humans and non-humans, in various fi elds of action. Th is ontology correlates with a more encompassing “process metaphysic” in which reality is in constant flux, continually “becoming.” The process metaphysic envisioned by philosopher Alfred North Whitehead provides a technical language for analyzing the composition and extension of Maya persons, using the model of personhood developed by anthropologist Marcel Mauss. In life individual Maya persons assembled divergent components endowed by their maternal and paternal ancestors, which were subsequently disassembled upon their deaths. They also assembled non-corporeal components–souls and names–that linked them to existences beyond the physical boundaries and timelines of their bodies. Aspects of personhood were also shared by objects worn or manipulated by humans. Persons were thus extended in space and in time, outliving individual human beings. Maya belief and practice reveals the fundamental process known as k’ex, “replacement” or “substitution,” accounts for much of the flux and duration of the universe as a Maya-specific mode of “becoming.”

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