In The Chicken and the Quetzal Paul Kockelman theorizes the creation, measurement, and capture of value by recounting the cultural history of a village in Guatemala's highland cloud forests and its relation to conservation movements and ecotourism. In 1990 a group of German ecologists founded an NGO to help preserve the habitat of the resplendent quetzal – the strikingly beautiful national bird of Guatemala – near the village of Chicacnab. The ecotourism project they established in Chicacnab was meant to provide new sources of income for its residents so they would abandon farming methods that destroyed quetzal habitat. The pressure on villagers to change their practices created new values and forced negotiations between indigenous worldviews and the conservationists' goals. Kockelman uses this story to offer a sweeping theoretical framework for understanding the entanglement of values as they are interpreted and travel across different and often incommensurate ontological worlds. His theorizations apply widely to studies of the production of value, the changing ways people make value portable, and value's relationship to ontology, affect, and selfhood.
"This is a big book, speaking to the hard and intractable questions about the distinctions between the particular and the universal, the private and the public, and the intimate and the ultimate. Insofar as philosophy has tried to understand the human condition as bridging the mental and physical world, Paul Kockelman's book is one of the boldest things out there. I love this book and its analytical project. Anthropology needs something like this, now."
– Bill Maurer, author of, How Would You Like to Pay? How Technology Is Changing the Future of Money
"The Chicken and the Quetzal is a masterpiece. Paul Kockelman's finely grained ethnography of an ecotourism NGO in Guatemala's highlands opens up new ways to think about meaning, value, ontology, ecology, development, indigenous studies, and more. A broad audience from advanced undergraduates to specialists will benefit from the insights of one of our generation's most rigorous and original thinkers presented in beautifully written prose. The Chicken and the Quetzal has the power to make one see the world in a different way."
– Julia Elyachar, author of Markets of Dispossession: NGOs, Economic Development, and the State in Cairo
Introduction. Enclosure and Disclosure 1
1. NGOs, Ecotourists, and Endangered Avifauna: Immaterial Labor, Incommensurate Values, and Intersubjective Intentions 13
2. A Mayan Ontology of Poultry: Selfhood, Affect, and Animals 49
3. From Reciprocation to Replacement: Grading Use Value, Labor Power, and Personhood 87
4. From Measurement to Meaning: Standardizing and Certifying Homes and Their Inhabitance 125
Conclusion. Paths, Portability, and Parasites 157
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Paul Kockelman is Professor of Anthropology at Yale University and the author of Agent, Person, Subject, Self: A Theory of Ontology, Interaction, and Infrastructure.