In this valuable book, ethnographer and anthropologist Brigittine French mobilizes new critical-theoretical perspectives in linguistic anthropology, applying them to the politically charged context of contemporary Guatemala. Beginning with an examination of the "nationalist project" that has been ongoing since the end of the colonial period, French interrogates the
"Guatemalan/indigenous binary." In Guatemala, "Ladino" refers to the Spanish-speaking minority of the population, who are of mixed European, usually Spanish, and indigenous ancestry;
"Indian" is understood to mean the majority of Guatemala's population, who speak one of the twenty-one languages in the Maya linguistic groups of the country, although levels of
bilingualism are very high among most Maya communities. As French shows, the Guatemalan state has actively promoted a racialized, essentialized notion of "Indians" as an
undifferentiated, inherently inferior group that has stood stubbornly in the way of national progress, unity, and development--which are, implicitly, the goals of "true Guatemalans"
(that is, Ladinos).
About Brigittine French
Brigittine M. French is an assistant professor of anthropology at Grinnell College in Grinnell, Iowa. She began conducting ethnographic and linguistic research among Maya communities in the Guatemalan highlands in 1992 and is currently interested in the circulation of Maya testimony in transnational contexts.