In the aftermath of a civil war, former enemies are left living
side by side-and often the enemy is a son-in-law, a godfather, an
old schoolmate, or the community that lies just across the valley.
Though the internal conflict in Peru at the end of the twentieth
century was incited and organized by insurgent Senderistas, the
violence and destruction were carried out not only by Peruvian
armed forces but also by civilians. In the wake of war, any given
Peruvian community may consist of ex-Senderistas, current
sympathizers, widows, orphans, army veterans-a volatile social
landscape. These survivors, though fully aware of the potential
danger posed by their neighbors, must nonetheless endeavor to live
and labor alongside their intimate enemies.
Drawing on years of research with communities in the highlands of
Ayacucho, Kimberly Theidon explores how Peruvians are rebuilding
both individual lives and collective existence following twenty
years of armed conflict. Intimate Enemies recounts the
stories and dialogues of Peruvian peasants and Theidon's own
experiences to encompass the broad and varied range of conciliatory
practices: customary law before and after the war, the practice of
arrepentimiento (publicly confessing one's actions and
requesting pardon from one's peers), a differentiation between
forgiveness and reconciliation, and the importance of storytelling
to make sense of the past and recreate moral order. The
micropolitics of reconciliation in these communities present an
example of postwar coexistence that deeply complicates the way we
understand transitional justice, moral sensibilities, and social
life in the aftermath of war. Any effort to understand postconflict
reconstruction must be attuned to devastation as well as to human
tenacity for life.
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