The folds of the world: An essay on Mesoamerican textile topology

Pedro Pitarch


This article explores a Mesoamerican topology based on the figure of the fold. It argues that the operation of folding represents a crucial concept for understanding indigenous cosmology and ontology. The fold is what allows the separation and articulation of the two domains into which the indigenous cosmos is divided: the solar state, extensive and discrete, which humans and other ordinary beings inhabit, and the intensive, virtual sphere, where spirits dwell. In turn, the fold refers to textiles, which likely represent a basic model for invention and transformation in Mesoamerican cultures. The article examines certain classical themes in Mesoamerican anthropology in light of this topology: a human being’s make-up, ritual operations, folding of the body, the sacred bundles, and the substance of time. At a more general level, this work is an attempt to contribute to what could be called an Amerindian transformational topology, a kind of imagination where certain “forms” or “figures” reappear in different domains of the world as transformations one of another.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.1086/717128