Social opacity and the dynamics of empathic in-sight among the tzotzil maya of Chiapas, Mexico

Kevin P. Groark*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

34 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

In this article, I explore local constructions of empathic access and social knowing among the highland Maya of San Juan Chamula. I argue that a pervasive sense of social opacity-a presumed inability to accurately know the motivations, potencies, and identities of social others-gives rise to a moral-interpretive dilemma centering on the degree of concordance between the publicly presented self and the subjective or "private" self. I introduce the phrase "empathic in-sight" to refer to those processes-both real and fantasy based-intended to produce an understanding of the inner states of others (in terms of underlying emotions, feelings, motivations, thoughts, and desires), thereby restoring a degree of transparency to everyday social interactions. The phrase is meant to suggest a dynamic and active process of "seeing within," through which one attempts to gain access to, and understanding of, otherwise occluded conative and cognitive states-particularly those dimensions of the self that are actively hidden from view.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)427-448
Number of pages22
JournalEthos
Volume36
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2008
Externally publishedYes

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