Megan Keskitalo Schneeberger
I currently work within Mexico on the Yucatan peninsula. There, I study the gender dynamics of economic endeavors. Indigenous women on the peninsula are faced with a variety of challenges to their identities both as women and as Maya. As global capitalism becomes a fact of life for them, they find themselves responding in a variety of ways to the conditions they face. As mothers, as members of communities, as women and as Maya they find themselves having to negotiate new identities within the boundaries of these roles.
My Master's Thesis is focusing on the history of these brave women, from pre-conquest times until present. This history is an important step in understanding the power that Maya women have and have had throughout time. The Maya people have existed for millennia, and their women have always held roles of some power within their communities and kingdoms. It is important to realize that these roles have changed along with changing centralization and decentralization within the Maya realm.
The Yucatan peninsula has always offered a special case and unique conditions for life. It is a very flat limestone shelf, jutting out into the Gulf of Mexico. It is unusual because there are no above ground sources for fresh water, in fact, in the northern area of the peninsula the only water source available to the Maya were places where underground rivers have worn away the limestone above their beds, forming cenotes (pronounced sen-o-tays). It was these cenotes that were the life-blood of the Yucatec Maya. Here they were able to form great cities, which rose and fell in the time before conquest. The Maya of this region, along with those in the jungles in the south of the peninsula, were able to resist the conquest for some time and were able to create indigenous rebellion long into the colonial period.
This history will be imperative to understanding the responses of Maya women to the advent of globalization. They are in a crucial, quickly changing time period. The meaning of being Maya, of being a woman, a mother, and a worker are all rapidly changing. Maya women are finding new symbols to define themselves within the context of these changes.
In addition to the Maya, I am also interested in the natives of North America and the early civilizations of southeast Asia. I will be pursuing my doctoral degree within the area of socio-cultural anthropology with an emphasis on economics. I am also studying human growth and development within the context of biological and cultural anthropology.