Situating the Corn Child: Articulating Animism and Conservation from a Nahua Perspective
Subject Areas: Religious Studies
This article analyzes Animism and conservation in the context of a conservation and development program in Mexico. The Eastern Sierra Madre mountains have become contested spaces where certain traditional agricultural practices are challenged by government conservation projects. With a focus on the Nahuas, I ask whether and in what context indigenous religious thought and cultural values translate into conservationist behavior and how conservation ideals influence indigenous nature views. I focus on ritual behavior directed toward the corn-child as an example of an ethical model to respect sentient beings. Then, I contrast this model with a Mexican conservation and development program. As an example of seemingly changing perceptions of nature, the Nahuas accept the program by weighing economic needs over religious ones, but not leaving behind their obligations to nature spirits. My analysis shows how they articulate new representations of the corn-child with conservation to make sense out of recent environmental processes. I also demonstrate the cultural agency of the Nahuas who integrate globally circulating conservation ideas as easily adapted cultural material. The articulation of conservation-as-sacred-practice is an example of how they have come to terms with political, economic, and environmental challenges and offers powerful cultural resources to serve local ends.
Author: Kristina Tiedje