A Mayan Ontology of Poultry

This essay has three key themes: ontology (what kinds of beings there are in the world); affect (cognitive and corporal attunements to such entities); and selfhood (relatively reflexive centers of attunement). To explore these themes, it focuses on women's care for chickens among speakers of Q'eqchi'-Maya living in the cloud-forests of highland Guatemala. Broadly speaking, it argues that these three themes are empirically, methodologically, and theoretically inseparable. And it argues that the chicken is a particularly rich site for such research because it is simultaneously self, alter, and object for its owners. To undertake this analysis, this essay adopts a semiotic stance towards such themes, partly grounded in the writings of the American pragmatists (Peirce, James, Mead), and partly grounded in recent and classic scholarship by linguists, psychologists, and anthropologists.