Negotiating Heritage Through Practice: Community Engagement at the Intersection of Ethnography and Archaeology

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Heritage, Community Archaeology, Environmental Education

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For Maya communities in southern Belize, environmental and cultural heritage is not a static entity but an everyday lived experience. In this paper, we critically examine this living heritage through reflections on a series of collaborative heritage projects in Mopan and Q'eqchi' Maya communities in southern Belize. We collaborated with community members, community-based organization leaders, and archaeologists to exchange knowledge about land use and land management in the context of supporting and sustaining cultural heritage knowledge and practice. Building on long-term ethno-graphic research in a village with an archaeological site located on community lands, we designed a series of activities utilizing multiple pathways in support of the maintenance of heritage. We consider how sociocultural anthropologists navigate community/archaeology collaborations, documenting the successes and challenges of these groups working together and describing points of tension that have yet to be resolved but reflect broader patterns of negotiated heritage in Belize and beyond.

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Practicing Anthropology, v. 45, issue 4, p. 9-16