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The Art of Becoming: The Graffiti of Tikal, Guatemala

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 January 2017

Scott R. Hutson*
Affiliation:
Department of Anthropology, University of Kentucky, 211 Lafferty Hall, Lexington, KY 40306-0024 (scotthutson@uky.edu)

Abstract

In their 1995 Latin American Antiquity article, Haviland and Haviland argued that the people who produced much of the graffiti of Tikal were depicting visions from altered states of consciousness. In this paper, I argue that there is room for alternative interpretations. Comparison with children"s drawings from across the world suggests that children or people without training in Maya representational conventions authored a portion of the graffiti. Though this portion may be small, the possibility that children were involved provides a rare opportunity to discuss the experience of childhood. I argue that the content of the graffiti and the inter-subjective context of its production reveal several processes of becoming. Among other things, the graffiti permit an account of how children learn: legitimate participation in a community of people with varied levels of experience. This relational understanding of graffiti production also provides grounds for considering innovation and transformation in the medium of expression. Finally, I argue that the act of representation gives young people a form of mastery over the themes they portray. This helps them to accommodate confusing or difficult relations in their lives and to harmonize with their world in such a way that makes them culturally intelligible subjects.

Resumen

Resumen

En 1995, Haviland y Haviland publicaron un artículo en Latin American Antiquity en donde argumentaron que la gente que produjo la mayoría de los grafiti de Tikal intentó representar visiones de estados alterados de conciencia. En este ensayo, sugiero que existen interpretaciones alternativas. Comparaciones con dibujos de niños de varias culturas indican que niños o personas sin entrenamiento en las convenciones de representación de la cultura maya escribieron una porción de los grafiti. Argumento que el contenido de los grafiti y el contexto inter-subjetivo de su producción revelan varios procesos de realización. Los grafiti permiten observaciones sobre un proceso de aprendizaje basado en la participación en una comunidad de personas con varios niveles de experiencia. Este entendimiento relacional de la producción de grafittis también proporciona una explicación para la innovación y la transformación en el medio de expresión. Finalmente, sostengo que la acción de representación da a los jóvenes un dominio sobre los temas que representan gráficamente. Eso les ayuda a acomodar relaciones difíciles en sus vidas y a armonizarse con el mundo de tal manera que les permite ser sujetos culturalmente inteligibles.

Type
Articles
Copyright
Copyright ©2011 by the Society for American Archaeology.

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