Dreaming and the dialectics of self-experience: the psychodynamics of highland Maya dream culture

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis


This dissertation presents a cultural psychodynamic analysis of the dream culture of the Chamula Tzotzil Maya of Highland Chiapas, Mexico. Through a detailed examination of the significance of highland Maya dreams in both theory and practice, I explore three related questions: 1) In what way might the dreamspace be considered a legitimate realm of interaction, interpersonal engagement, and activity?; 2) How does such a “realist” or “objectivist” theory of dream facilitate certain personal and social uses of dreams, while foreclosing others?; and 3) How might psychoanalytic modes of interpretation deepen our understanding of the “cultural psychodynamics” of Highland Maya dream experience? This project represents a first step in the elaboration of a “cultural psychodynamic approach” that merges the methods and theoretical sensibilities of cultural anthropology, linguistics, and psychoanalysis. A sustained interpretive triangulation between these fields lends greater dimensionality to scholarly analyses: Psychoanalytic ideas help illuminate dynamic intrapsychic and interpersonal processes of meaning making; ethnographic data emphasize the powerfully constitutive role of ethnotheories and social practices in conditioning the form, function, and expression of psychodynamic processes; and close attention to narrative and the “language of experience” allows for a focus on expressive– symbolic instantiation of these ethotheories in both social interaction and the constitution of self-experience.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • New Center for Psychoanalysis
Award date15 May 2015
Publication statusUnpublished - May 2015


  • Dreaming
  • Tzotzil
  • Maya
  • psychoanalysis
  • cultural psychodynamics
  • intersubjectivity


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