The Breaking Point: Land use and Sustainability in the Mayan City of Caracol.
Bryn Mawr College. Department of Anthropology
Place of Publication
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Right now, there are more people living in cities than outside of them. At the same time, the sustainability of our cities continues to become less and less certain. Low-density urban settlements have been held up by some as a model for how we could redesign and reimagine our current cities to solve the greatest challenges of the modern urban environment. The problem with using the low-density model is the ‘collapse’ that appears to have occured in the greatest examples of theses cities, most obviously the Classic Maya, and Greater Angkor. This Thesis aims to provide insight into how the agricultural component of Mayan low-density may have been a vital component that led to the ‘collapse’ of the Classic Maya. This project argues that the rigidity of agrarian systems in the Mayan City of Caracol led to an overtaxing of the land as population levels reached their peak exhausting the soil throughout the entirety of the urban polity. At the same time, changes in the trading systems of the region and the onset of a drought that strained the entire region. The factors came together to fracture the bonds of political power, and force individuals to leave the cities altogether.ing to resist oppressive systems of the academy and the community. With this focus on effecting change, performance ethnographers vastly expand the reach of ethnographic projects. As a consequence, these projects may fall short of the anthropologist’s high expectations for transformative work, and run the risk of reinforcing the researcher’s power over their subjects by prioritizing their own agenda. This thesis examines methodological interventions performance offers to ethnography using a few case studies, and argues that performance ethnography is not successful when it is used mainly to transform or liberate the subjects of research. For these interventions to be effective, anthropologists should recognize their limitations and use performance ethnography as an investigative and educational tool.