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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The Monjas Complex at Chichen Itza, Yucatan : Gendered spaces, domestic labour, and ideology Ruscheinsky, Lynn Marie


My thesis will take up the challenge presented by Joan Wallach Scott of writing a new history, through an analysis not only of the relationship between male and female experience in the past, but also of the connection between past history and current historical practice. The underlying purpose of my thesis is to resist the colonialist appropriations produced by a primitivizing discourse, of which a vital component has been the erasure of gender from the archaeological record. History figures in this approach not exclusively as a record of changes in the social organization of ancient Maya society, but rather will be taken more crucially into account as a participant in the production of knowledge that reproduces gender asymmetry. From the earliest archaeological research in the mid-nineteenth century, which sought to establish the origin of the ancient Maya, to current Americanist discourses which attempt to classify Maya sociopolitical systems, the Monjas complex at Chichen Itza has played a vital role. Each of the interpretations of the Monjas has involved a similar process of selecting and decontextualizing fragments of data. The bulk of archaeological data has been provided by John Bolles' excavation of the Monjas in 1932-34 for the Carnegie Institution of Washington. In order to reinforce 'primitivist' views of the ancient Maya, scholars ignored evidence of residential function. Although recognizing residential patterns, processual archaeologists have also applied primitivist notions thus, organization within the lineage is presumed to be corporate, reciprocal, egalitarian. In this thesis I will explore the ideological uses of material objects constructing social relationships, and will instead argue that the function of the Monjas structure as a lineage residence included segregation based primarily on gender. I will suggest ways in which the subtle and active role played by these historically specific material remains could be seen to have produced and reproduced a gender hierarchy.

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