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Our Time is Now
Race and Modernity in Postcolonial Guatemala

Part of Cambridge Latin American Studies

  • Date Published: April 2022
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781108733489


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About the Authors
  • Postcolonial histories have long emphasized the darker side of narratives of historical progress, especially their role in underwriting global and racial hierarchies. Concepts like primitiveness, backwardness, and underdevelopment not only racialized and gendered peoples and regions, but also ranked them on a seemingly naturalized timeline - their 'present' is our 'past' - and reframed the politics of capitalist expansion and colonization as an orderly, natural process of evolution towards modernity. Our Time is Now reveals that modernity particularly appealed to those excluded from power, precisely because of its aspirational and future orientation. In the process, marginalized peoples creatively imagined diverse political futures that redefined the racialized and temporal terms of modernity. Employing a critical reading of a wide variety of previously untapped sources, Julie Gibbings demonstrates how the struggle between indigenous people and settlers to manage contested ideas of time and history as well as practices of modern politics, economics, and social norms were central to the rise of coffee capitalism in Guatemala and to twentieth century populist dictatorship and revolution.

    • Examines Q'eqchi Maya efforts to forge an alternative vision of modernity via indigenous traditions, politics, culture, economics, and general worldviews during a period of unrest in postcolonial Guatemala
    • Demonstrates the ways that historical time was central to contests over race and aspects of political modernity including citizenship, labor, and nation
    • Uses sources including oral histories, municipal and national archives, newspapers, poetry and novels, popular histories and photographs, and plantation records
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'It is hard to write a modern Guatemalan history that is a not just a grim march to the genocide of the 1980s, but this exciting, meticulous book does it spellbindingly. Refusing to universalize colonizing linear time, Gibbings pries open the archive to engage the pluriverse of transforming Mayan experience with salutary attention to gender. While rooted lovingly in place, this is a profound analysis of plantationocene worlding that will resonate for anyone concerned with today's global crisis of racialized climate collapse.' Diane Nelson, author of Who Counts? The Mathematics of Death and Life After Genocide

    'Through nuanced analysis of archival materials and oral histories, Gibbings reveals indigenous peoples' perspectives, strategies, and responses to local and national politics. In so doing, she captures the complexity of class, gender, ethnic, and power relationships amongst Q'eqchi Mayas and between them and Hispanic authorities.' David Carey, author of I Ask for Justice: Maya Women, Dictators, and Crime in Guatemala, 1898-1944

    'Gibbings deftly renders the radical imaginaries of indigenous Guatemalans, for whom the legacies of empire, liberalism, forced labor, and political violence weighed like a nightmare. This theoretically sophisticated and archivally-grounded book not only recasts the history of post-colonial Guatemala but also, like the very Q'eqchi Maya alternative modernities at the heart of its story, unsettles the normative temporalities and teleologies of Western racial capitalism.' Kirsten Weld, author of Paper Cadavers: The Archives of Dictatorship in Guatemala

    'Packed with insights, this work is essential reading for all Guatemalanists and specialists interested in Native intermediaries, rural land and labor systems, and subaltern histories of the transition to capitalism.' J. T. Way, Hispanic American Historical Review

    'Our Time Is Now is an extensive, carefully researched and elegantly argued book that presents its readers with multiple, intertwined histories: of the development of coffee production and the nation-state in Guatemala's majority Indigenous Alta Verapaz region; of the concurrent emergence of key ideas about race, progress and 'modernity' in Guatemala as a whole; and also, more reflexively and, as its title suggests, about the often-contentious ways in which history is created, and how such processes may be tied to contested definitions of time itself.' Nathaniel Morris, Journal of Latin American Studies

    'Theoretically profound, painstakingly researched, thoughtfully argued and beautifully written, Julie Gibbings' Our Time Is Now is a brilliant addition not only to Guatemalan and Latin American history but to colonial and postcolonial studies in general.' Michael D. Kirkpatrick, Canadian Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Studies

    '… a fascinating history … meticulously researched … this book has much to offer both historians of Guatemala and people interested in historical methodologies.' Catherine A. Nolan-Ferrell

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    Product details

    • Date Published: April 2022
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781108733489
    • length: 426 pages
    • dimensions: 227 x 151 x 26 mm
    • weight: 0.59kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    Introduction: History Will Write Our Names
    I. Translating Modernities:
    1. To Live without King or Castle: Maya Patriarchal Liberalism on the Eve of a New Era, 1860-1871
    2. Possessing Sentiments and Ideas of Progress: Coffee Planting, Land Privatization, and Liberal Reform, 1871-1885
    3. Indolence is the Death of Character: The Making of Race and Labor, 1885-1898
    4. El Q'eq Roams at Night: Plantation Sovereignty and Racial Capitalism, 1898–1914
    II. Aspirations and Anxieties of Unfulfilled Modernities:
    5. On the Throne of Minerva: The Making of Urban Modernities, 1908–1920
    6. Freedom of the Indian: Maya Rights and Citizenship in a Democratic Experiment, 1920–1932
    7. Possessing Tezulutlán: Splitting Time in Dictatorship, 1931-1939
    8. Now Owners of Our Land: Nationalism, History, and Memory in Revolution, 1939-1954.

  • Author

    Julie Gibbings, University of Edinburgh
    Julie Gibbings is a Lecturer in the School of History, Classics, and Archaeology at the University of Edinburgh.

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