Event location changed: Engaging Maya Stories and Maya People


"Engaging Maya Stories and Maya People" with Paul Sullivan has been moved to the Widener Classroom at the Penn Museum.

October 26, 2017

4:00 PM
Widener Classroom, Penn Museum

Researchers have been transcribing and recording fragments of Yucatec Maya historical discourse since the early years of the twentieth century. To someone who has learned Maya, spent time on the Yucatan Peninsula, and heard such talk over and over again, the published and archived relics of Maya historical and prophetic traditions can seem impoverished, inarticulate, confused, and frankly boring. Sometimes the methods used to record and transcribe Maya talk have been inadequate, as scholars have pointed out. The larger problem, though, is that we’ve ripped Maya stories from their natural context -- from the moment in which they told us something that seemed to them important. Such fleeting moments of sharing are suffused with motives and meanings both evident and hidden, which are lost in our own efforts to preserve the spoken words so that others may read them later. Mayas tell their historical tales with purpose, to engage others in the projects and possibilities of a particular time and place. How do we who have the desire to “preserve” their past preserve, too, that sense of words and storytelling as a meaningful, on-going engagement with others. Mr. Sullivan will talk about some efforts made in this regard including their shortcomings and challenges, especially in regard to my own work on Maya prophecy and historical memory.