The Chicken and the Quetzal

This book is about the relationship between meaning, measurement, materiality, and money. It develops an analytic framework for understanding the entanglement of what at first appear to be distinct values--use value (function), exchange value (price), semantic value (meaning), and deontic value (morality). It foregrounds the relation between enclosure and disclosure, showing the ways in which processes that create, interpret, and reveal values are concomitant with processes that capture, carry, and reify them. It examines the conditions and consequences of making valued entities and evaluating agents seem relatively portable, in the sense of being widely applicable, contextually independent, and scale-free. This analytic lens is used to offer a cultural history of a Mayan village in the early twenty-first century--a community surrounded by vigilante violence and opened to ecotourists, situated at the end of civil war and the onset of neoliberal reforms, and standing at the edge of the Guatemalan state and the center of a strange form of sovereignty.