Paper presentation to focus on decolonizing development and imagining Indigenous futures

York University will host a paper presentation by Filiberto Penados, academic director for the Center for Engaged Learning Abroad (CELA-Belize), titled “Decolonizing development and imagining Indigenous futures: The case of Maya communities in southern Belize” on Nov. 13.

Penados is a Belizean Maya activist-scholar who serves as technical adviser and member of the land rights steering committee of the Toledo Alcalde Association and Maya Leaders Alliance.

Ken Little, a York professor of anthropology who also works in Belize, will be a discussant for the paper, along with Jim Stinson.

The paper outlines a landmark court ruling in 2015 in the Caribbean Court of Justice affirming the rights to land of the Maya people of southern Belize. In the aftermath of this court ruling, the Toledo Alcalde Association (the organization of traditional Maya leaders) and the Maya Leaders Alliance have turned the focus of their attention more sharply on imagining and constructing a Maya future. As part of this focus they commissioned a process to articulate a Maya development vision, essentially asking, “What is our vision for a Maya future?”

The method involved aimed to avoid the logic of coloniality at the core of development thinking and sought to create a space for imagining alternative futures. Leaders and community representatives were involved in a visioning process through the use of drawing exercises that engaged them in a dynamic of re-rooting and re-routing. The initial results of this process produced a vision that emphasizes Maya assets, collective well-being, a kind of intercultural economy, self-determination, and respectful relations between the state and Indigenous leaders.

The paper will discuss the process of articulating a Maya development vision as part the larger effort to imagine and construct a Maya future, present the initial results, and reflect on the challenges and implications for decolonizing development and imagining new possibilities.

The event is co-sponsored by the Health and Society program, the Development Studies program, CERLAC and the social science internal/external committee.

It takes place in S701 Ross Building from 3 to 5 p.m. and is free and open to the public.