Punching above their weight: Opposition to mining and Xinka politics in Guatemala
Mariel Cristina Støen
Anna Guðbjört Sveinsdóttir
Academic article
Year published:
This article investigates how Xinka indigeneity disrupts the dominant order in Guatemala. Our analysis below focus on Xinka politics in a Rancièrian sense. Our main objective is to understand how, and to what extent, the Xinka are becoming visible bodies, sayable names, and audible voices, thus, disrupting the status quo in Guatemala. This article contributes to a growing body of scholarship examining the complex and heterogeneous political positions of indigenous peoples in Latin America under processes of state decentralization, economic privatization, and market deregulation, which transform the relationships between states and indigenous peoples and influence indigenous forms of organizing. Using the case of the Xinka conflictual engagement with a mining project as a lens we argue that Xinka opposition to mining articulates indigeneity and political mobilization, thus disrrupting the current social order in Guatemala. The Xinka become political subjects by claiming and exercising capacities they allegedly lack and by enacting rights they are not entitled to claim. The Xinka act as if they already possess that which is denied to them to challenge the inegalitarian partition of the sensible: what can be named, what can be seen, what can be counted. Their activism and their various tactics render their position, as rights-holders, explicit and accessible to an audience. These tactics include their irreverence as expressed in monitoring and deciding who is allowed to transit through a national road, bringing their cases to domestic and foreign courts, as well as detaining policemen and employees of the mining company. As we will discuss, the Xinka identity is not fixed in some essentialized past, but rather, it is a process that conjoins a collective position and the political subjects who articulate the position.