UCL Anthropology


Alonso Zamora Corona

Alonso Zamora

UCL Email: alonso.corona.16@ucl.ac.uk
Websites: https://ucl.academia.edu/AlonsoZamoraCorona
Year of Start: 2016
Supervisors: Prof. Martin Holbraad
Subject: Social Anthropology
Fieldsite: Santiago Momostenango, Guatemala

PhD Research

Time and power among the K'iche' Maya

My current research centres on the relationship between cosmology, shamanism and political power among the K’iche’ Maya of Momostenango, Guatemala. K’iche’ ritual life is based in the burning of offerings at sacred structures called awas, altars made of piles of stone and clay where calendrical shaman-priests offer incense to honour their ancestors and the earth divinities. These artefacts are conceived as being connected to a supernatural underworld, and are said to be material counterparts of the spirits of the earth gods and the ancestors, being capable of bringing illnesses and death to people when not fed by ritual offerings; thus, they are said to “bite” (kationik) and slowly devour the souls of people when neglected, provoking social and economic failure. Conversely, the success in the cult of the telluric divinities and ancestors is linked with economic and political success, for the ancestors are considered by some to be earth gods themselves or ajaw ri uwachulew (‘lords of the face of the earth’), granters of political and social power. However, in recent times, the presence of protestant churches Mormonism, the influence of New Age nativist revivals (“espiritualidad maya”) and the fight against mining companies has brought new conflicts to the political life of the town.

Research Interests

  • Amerindian cosmologies
  • Mesoamerican calendars and divination
  • Maya history and epigraphy


  • Zamora, A. 2016. "Deciphering Ontologies: Divination and 'Infinition' in Classic Maya Inscriptions." Revista de Antropología da Universidade de São Paulo 59 (3): 73-89.
  • Zamora, A (Forthcoming) 'Tlaelcuani: On the Possible Function of the in extenso Almanac of the Codex Borgia' In Estudios Indiana no. 13, Ibero-Amerikanisches Institut in Berlin, 63-89.
  • Zamora, A. (Forthcoming) “The Visage of the Days: On Corporality and Souls among the K’iche” Maya of Santiago Momostenango. Journal de la société des américanistes

Presentations & Conferences

  • 2018 Universidad de las Américas Puebla (Cholula, Mexico) 24 April 2018. Conference: Wild Souls: Nagualismo in the Oral Tradition of the Maya
  • 2018 Round table of Maya Studies in the Highlands of Chiapas and Guatemala, Centro de Estudios Superiores de México y Centroamérica (San Cristóbal de las Casas, Mexico) July 12 2018. Paper: ‘The visage of darkness’: Shapeshifting Sorcery among the Maya in Momostenango
  • 2018 Universidad de las Américas Puebla (Cholula, Mexico) October 18, 2018. Conference: ‘The master of darkness and night’: Witchcraft among the K’iche’ Maya
  • 2019 ‘Bratislava Maya Meetings 2019, ‘Mesoamerican Worldviews’ Faculty of Arts, Comenius University (Bratislava, Slovakia) May 4 2018. Paper: Devouring Ancestors: Cosmologies of predation and sacrifice among contemporary K’iche’ Maya’
  • 2019 Workshop for Junior Scholars hosted by Prof Carlo Severi: Geographies of Cultural Memory: Approaches to a Global Anthropology of Images. Warburg Institute (London, United Kingdom) 8 June 2019. Presentation: “The materiality of cosmology and power among the K’iche’ Maya”
  • 2019 V Congreso Internacional de Antropología AIBR (Madrid, Spain) 10 July. Paper: Coyotes on Maya brains: the anthropology 2019of the coyote and its magic among the K'iche'

Teaching Experience

I worked as a junior lecturer at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México where I taught in some of the undergraduate courses on the Anthropology of Ritual offered by Dr Johannes Neurath (Universität Wien/Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia).

Education History

  • BA in Hispanic Literature at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, with a thesis on the notion of infinity in the Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges, the metaphysics of Arthur Schopenhauer and Georg Cantor's set theory.
  • MA in Mesoamerican Studies at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, with a thesis on the Anthropology of Time in Classic Maya Inscriptions.

Honours, Awards & Funding

  • UNAM Scholarship, Mexico (2012-2014)
  • CONACYT UCL Graduate Fellowship, Mexico-UK (2016-2020).