Spiritual Leaders Build Common Ground: Enacting Worldviews through Legal Pluralism in the Face of Neoliberalism

B. Verschuuren, Felipe Gomez

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterAcademicpeer-review


In Indigenous societies in Guatemala, sacred natural sites are central to people’s well-being. The spiritual dimension enacted at sacred natural sites is characteristic of Indigenous peoples’ relationship with the wider landscape as expressed through their role in natural resource management and governance. In this chapter we are guided by the ontologies of spiritual leaders from Guatemala Ajq Ijab who view sacred places as part of their cosmology. As spiritual leaders, the Ajq Ijab create common ground between the communities they do their spiritual work with, and actors from outside these communities. Through their spiritual work, the Ajq Ijab revitalise their sacred natural sites that are a resilient source of inspiration when creating common grounds in defence of threats from outside pressures. In this process, they draw from their spirituality through practices of ritual, ceremony, healing and enacting traditional law. The extent to which common grounds offer a pathway for the revitalisation and conservation of sacred natural sites depends on how well spiritual leaders and their supporters can broker their interests with other actors and gain political legitimacy and power.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationReligion and Nature Conservation
Subtitle of host publicationGlobal Case Studies
EditorsR. Borde, A.A. Ormsby, S.M. Awoyemi, A.G. Gosler
Number of pages15
ISBN (Electronic)9781003246190
Publication statusPublished - 31 Oct 2022


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