Indigenous Cosmolectics

Kab'awil and the Making of Maya and Zapotec Literatures

By Gloria Elizabeth Chac贸n

260 pp., 6.14 x 9.21, notes, bibl

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-3679-5
    Published: November 2018
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-3675-7
    Published: November 2018
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-1-4696-3682-5
    Published: September 2018
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-5225-0
    Published: September 2018

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Latin America's Indigenous writers have long labored under the limits of colonialism, but in the late twentieth and twenty-first centuries, they have constructed a literary corpus that moves them beyond those parameters. Gloria E. Chac贸n considers the growing number of contemporary Indigenous writers who turn to Maya and Zapotec languages alongside Spanish translations of their work to challenge the tyranny of monolingualism and cultural homogeneity. Chac贸n argues that these Maya and Zapotec authors reconstruct an Indigenous literary tradition rooted in an Indigenous cosmolectics, a philosophy originally grounded in pre-Columbian sacred conceptions of the cosmos, time, and place, and now expressed in creative writings. More specifically, she attends to Maya and Zapotec literary and cultural forms by theorizing kab'awil as an Indigenous philosophy. Tackling the political and literary implications of this work, Chac贸n argues that Indigenous writers' use of familiar genres alongside Indigenous language, use of oral traditions, and new representations of selfhood and nation all create space for expressions of cultural and political autonomy.

Chac贸n recognizes that Indigenous writers draw from universal literary strategies but nevertheless argues that this literature is a vital center for reflecting on Indigenous ways of knowing and is a key artistic expression of decolonization.

About the Author

Gloria Elizabeth Chac贸n is assistant professor of literature at the University of California, San Diego. Chac贸n鈥檚 work has appeared in Canada, Colombia, Germany, Mexico, and the United States.

For more information about Gloria Elizabeth Chac贸n, visit the Author Page.


鈥淐hac贸n displays a wide knowledge of what鈥檚 happening in contemporary Indigenous literature. . . . The story of this book looks both backward and forward, and ends where it began, questioning how literature and politics at once restrict Indigenous writing and allow it to grow.鈥--Transmotion

鈥淐hac贸n鈥檚 important work should find ample readership . . . as much for her methodological approach as for the invaluable insights she produces through it. As a critical intervention into the field of literature in general. . . . Her text is thus a major contribution to the growing corpus of work that challenges readers and critics to think beyond the book and from Indigenous ways of knowing when engaging these works.鈥--NAIS

"A meaningful contribution to the study of Indigenous cultural production, and particularly to the understanding of Indigenous literatures across Mesoamerica."--Tracy Devine Guzm谩n, University of Miami

"Indigenous Cosmolectics is a brilliant literary exploration of the interweaving of the splendid Indigenous past and their abject present. Chac贸n is a rising star and has produced an important book that casts a fresh light and changes our understanding of this crucial field."--Arturo Arias, University of California, Merced