"The Only True People"

Linking Maya Identities Past and Present

edited by Bethany J. Beyyette and Lisa J. LeCount

"A 'must have' book for Mayanists."

—Bodil Liljefors Persson, Malmö University

"This edited volume of 11 essays is one of the first to explore the issue of Maya identity in the most comprehensive terms from the point of view of Maya archaeology and epigraphy, linguistics, history, and ethnography. . . . The essays trace avenues for future research and showcase research techniques and data sources that can clarify the complicated, changing nature of Indigenous identities. Highly recommended.​"​


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"The Only True People" is a timely and rigorous examination of ethnicity among the ancient and modern Maya, focusing on ethnogenesis and exploring the complexities of Maya identity—how it developed, where and when it emerged, and why it continues to change over time. In the volume, a multidisciplinary group of well-known scholars including archaeologists, linguists, ethnographers, ethnohistorians, and epigraphers investigate ethnicity and other forms of group identity at a number of Maya sites and places, from the northern reaches of the Yucatan to the Southern Periphery, and across different time periods, from the Classic period to the modern day.

Each contribution challenges the notion of ethnically homogenous "Maya peoples" for their region and chronology and explores how their work contributes to the definition of "ethnicity" for ancient Maya society. Contributors confront some of the most difficult theoretical debates concerning identity in the literature today: how different ethnic groups define themselves in relation to others; under what circumstances ethnicity is marked by overt expressions of group membership and when it is hidden from view; and the processes that transform ethnic identities and their expressions.

By addressing the social constructs and conditions behind Maya ethnicity, both past and present, "The Only True People" contributes to the understanding of ethnicity as a complex set of relationships among people who lived in real and imagined communities, as well as among people separated by social boundaries. The volume will be a key resource for Mayanists and will be of interest to students and scholars of ethnography, anthropology, and cultural studies as well.

Contributors: McCale Ashenbrener, Ellen E. Bell, Marcello A. Canuto, Juan Castillo Cocom, David A. Freidel, Wolfgang Gabbert, Stanley P. Guente, Jonathan Hill, Charles Andrew Hofling, Martha J. Macri, Damien B. Marken, Matthew Restall, Timoteo Rodriguez, Mathew C. Samson, Edward Schortman, Rebecca Storey


Bethany J. Beyyette is assistant professor of anthropology and sociology at University of Maryland University College, Europe Division. Her research is strongly interdisciplinary and focuses on ethnic identities and racial formation in postcolonial contexts.

Lisa J. LeCount is associate professor of anthropology at The University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, and director of the Actuncan Archaeological Project in Belize. She is an anthropological archaeologist who has published on provincial politics, feasting, kitchens, markets, and pre-Columbian pottery as markers of time and identity.

Imprint: University Press of Colorado

Book Details

  • Hardcover Price: $75.00
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-60732-566-6
  • Ebook Price: $60.00
  • 30-day ebook rental price: $30.00
  • EISBN: 978-1-60732-567-3
  • Publication Month: March
  • Publication Year: 2017
  • Pages: 306
  • Illustrations: 49 black and white figures
  • Discount Type: Short
  • Author: edited by Bethany J. Beyyette and Lisa J. LeCount
  • ECommerce Code: 978-1-60732-566-6