The revolutionary war launched by Shining Path, a Maoist insurgency, was the most violent upheaval in modern Peru’s history, claiming some 70,000 lives in the 1980s–1990s and drawing widespread international attention. Yet for many observers, Shining Path’s initial successes were a mystery. What explained its cult-like appeal, and what actually happened inside the Andean communities at war?
In How Difficult It Is to Be God, Carlos Iván Degregori—the world’s leading expert on Shining Path and the intellectual architect for Peru’s highly regarded Truth and Reconciliation Commission—elucidates the movement’s dynamics. An anthropologist who witnessed Shining Path’s recruitment of militants in the 1970s, Degregori grounds his findings in deep research and fieldwork. He explains not only the ideology and culture of revolution among the insurgents, but also their capacity to extend their influence to university youths, Indian communities, and competing social and political movements.
Making Degregori’s most important work available to English-language readers for the first time, this translation includes a new introduction by historian Steve J. Stern, who analyzes the author’s achievement, why it matters, and the debates it sparked. For anyone interested in Peru and Latin America’s age of “dirty war,” or in the comparative study of revolutions, Maoism, and human rights, this book will provide arresting new insights.
Colombia’s western Coffee Region is renowned for the whiteness of its inhabitants, who are often described as respectable pioneer families who domesticated a wild frontier and planted coffee on the forested slopes of the Andes. Some local inhabitants, however, tell a different tale—of white migrants rapaciously usurping the lands of indigenous and black communities. Muddied Waters examines both of these legends, showing how local communities, settlers, speculators, and politicians struggled over jurisdictional boundaries and the privatization of communal lands in the creation of the Coffee Region. Viewing the emergence of this region from the perspective of Riosucio, a multiracial town within it, Nancy P. Appelbaum reveals the contingent and contested nature of Colombia’s racialized regional identities.
Nineteenth- and twentieth-century Colombian elite intellectuals, Appelbaum contends, mapped race onto their mountainous topography by defining regions in racial terms. They privileged certain places and inhabitants as white and modern and denigrated others as racially inferior and backward. Inhabitants of Riosucio, however, elaborated local narratives about their mestizo and indigenous identities that contested the white mystique of the Coffee Region. Ongoing violent conflicts over land and politics, Appelbaum finds, continue to shape local debates over history and identity. Drawing on archival and published sources complemented by oral history, Muddied Waters vividly illustrates the relationship of mythmaking and racial inequality to regionalism and frontier colonization in postcolonial Latin America.