Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy


Hispanic Studies


Rafael Montano


The existence of cultural diversity in a connected world is paradoxical given that all individuals constantly interact and share information, and that individuals are all part of one giant network of connections. In the long term, it seems logical to assume that everybody should hold the same cultural information and, therefore, the same culture. Yet cultural diversity is still manifest around the globe. Cultural diversity as a phenomenon becomes even more puzzling when we take into account how it survives catastrophic events which regularly befall societies, such as invasions, natural disasters, and civil wars. In this thesis, agent-based computer simulations are employed to study this phenomenon of emergence and resilience of cultural diversity.

The paradox of cultural diversity has been explored with different formal and computational models before. This is the first time institutions are introduced into these models. Moreover, previous models as well as my institutional model are extended in this thesis by the addition of events such as decimation, foreign settlement and institutional conversion, all of which can be used to test the resilience of cultural diversity. Combination of these events enables the approximation of real-life catastrophes; examples of possible applications is given in the form of case studies with a variety of sources of information. The three case studies presented correspond to different moments in the history of the Maya population: the so-called Classic Maya Collapse (~800AC), the Spanish invasion of the Maya highlands area (15th century), and the Guatemalan Civil War (1960s-1980s).

This thesis contributes to the existent literature by (a) demonstrating that institutions and mechanisms associated to them (democracy, propaganda), play a role in the emergence of cultural diversity in computer simulations; (b) offering a novel framework to study cultural diversity in computational models, including tools to introduce and combine events that target cultural information in the system; and (c) showcasing that cultural diversity, as portrayed in the simulations, is resilient to catastrophic events. The value of agent-based models to the field of cultural studies is illustrated by the parallels that are drawn between results from simulations and real-life scenarios.