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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The social reproduction of gender identity through the production and reception of Lowland Maya figurines Ruscheinsky, Lynn Marie


From the earliest studies of Maya figurines to some of the most recent the possibility that these ceramic sculptures functioned as children's playthings has been raised but never pursued seriously as a topic of investigation. In addition to compiling evidence already available in the archaeological literature that supports this contention, I further investigate the possibilities that women produced these figurines for their children's use and therefore that these figurines represented a women's visual discourse. As well, this thesis explores uses for figurines as gift offerings in funerary contexts. I have chosen to investigate specifically the impact that figurines may have had on the formation of gender identity. I argue that figurines not only communicated the social values of their producers but may also have been instrumental in actively constructing the world of the individual through gender performance. I therefore examine figurine representations of women, men and children in relation to visual materials [primarily polychrome ceramics] assumed to be produced by men in an attempt to elucidate the contested nature of gender identity within Classic Maya households. I argue that instabilities and changes within gender relations could be understood as arising from power relations that were mediated through such visual imagery.

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