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Intimate Enemies

Intimate Enemies: Violence and Reconciliation in Peru

Kimberly Theidon
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 488
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  • Book Info
    Intimate Enemies
    Book Description:

    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.

    eISBN: 978-0-8122-0661-6
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. [Illustrations]
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Preface: Ayacucho, 1997
    (pp. ix-xvi)
  5. Part I. The Difficult Time

    • Chapter 1 “Ayacucho Is the Cradle”
      (pp. 3-23)

      In quechua people refer to the internal armed conflict as the sasachakuy tiempo (difficult time). The political violence is bracketed as a finite period in which normal moral codes were suspended, people engaged in the previously unimaginable, and many individuals grew strange unto themselves. It was a time most people fervently hope will never happen again.

      The sasachakuy tiempo began when the Communist Party of Peru-Shining Path (Sendero Luminoso) launched the armed phase of its revolution in 1980 with an attack on the Andean village of Chuschi. Militants burned the ballot boxes on the very day Peruvians were voting for...

    • Chapter 2 Sensuous Psychologies
      (pp. 24-53)

      Víctor rivera was one of the people who came into the TRC office in Ayacucho each weekday, took his place in a row of cubicles, stretched the large black earphones over his head, and listened hour after hour to some of those 16,917 testimonies. The relatores performed several tasks in the broader scheme of data management. They translated the testimonies from Quechua into Spanish, summarizing what they heard into two- to three-page relatos, and introduced chronology and coding. This was emotionally difficult work. Testimonies given to a truth commission do not make for easy listening.

      I interviewed eleven relatores about...

    • Chapter 3 Being Human
      (pp. 54-66)

      My experiences in Peru have convinced me that the work of postconflict social repair involves reconstructing the human. Although it may sound clichéd to speak about “dehumanizing violence,” listening to how campesinos describe the sasachakuy tiempo confirms that dehumanizing is precisely the word that best captures how people experienced the war. People tearfully recall that “we lived and died like dogs” and “we had to leave our dead loved ones wherever they were. They ended up as animals”—referring to having seen dogs and pigs gorging themselves on the cadavers. In the aftermath of fratricidal violence—in contexts in which...

    • Chapter 4 Fluid Fundamentalisms
      (pp. 67-100)

      It was about nine in the morning when I headed to the óvalo in search of a taxi to Huanta. The óvalo is a transportation hub, with taxis, vans, buses, and the occasional bicyclist departing for destinations throughout Peru. The first combis (vans) to the selva (jungle) had already left, and the crew of the next combi out was still loading passengers and cargo when I passed by. The roof rack was piled high with boxes, burlap sacks, suitcases, and backpacks, but a young man was still optimistically squeezing in a few more boxes before securing the load with rope....

  6. Part II. Common Sense, Gender, and War

    • Chapter 5 Speaking of Silences
      (pp. 103-142)

      In accomarca they told us about Eulogia, a young woman who died long before our arrival but who continues to appear in the memories of various women we spoke with. Eulogia was mute and lived during the time when the military base sat on the hill overlooking Accomarca.

      The soldiers came down from the base at night, entering the house Eulogia shared with her grandmother. They stood in line to rape her, taking advantage of her inability to verbally express her pain. Her female neighbors told us, with a mixture of compassion and shame, that “We couldn’t do anything. We...

    • Chapter 6 The Widows
      (pp. 143-182)

      Field notes, April 6, 2000: We slept on quicksand mattresses that made getting up in the morning a slow process. When one limb was successfully extracted, another inevitably sunk back into the mattress, lost among the mounds of smelly blankets and soggy foam. I want to remember how everything looks in the campo. The ichu filling the space between the sticks in the roof, tiny patches of blue sky by day and starry sky by night glimpsed through the cracks. The beaten-down dirt of the floor, worn smooth by cracked plastic shoes and wild brush brooms. Blackened pots jumbled in...

  7. Part III. Looking North

    • Chapter 7 Intimate Enemies
      (pp. 185-224)

      Juanita was one of the people who made me think more about how villagers began killing each other and how they stopped. She was talking about the sasachakuy tiempo one day, and recalled how the women had participated in the ronda campesina. Juanita had played a leadership role within the female ranks and grew nostalgic as she remembered those times. Standing soldier-straight, she began marching around her house, shouting out orders to the imaginary ronderas falling into step at her side. She took a few triumphant turns around her small house before sitting back down with a loud sigh. “There...

    • Chapter 8 The Micropolitics of Reconciliation
      (pp. 225-251)

      I would like to present myself as the quick and insightful anthropologist, but I am averse to lying. When villagers first referred to who had been human and who had not, I assumed these were interesting metaphors, idiomatic expressions. One of the first times someone used this sort of language was in passing. The conversation was so casual that I cannot even remember the context. I can only recall passing Michael one day when he was still in Los Tigres. Maybe I asked if everything was “tranquilo,” perhaps where he was headed on patrol. I truly cannot remember what inconsequential...

    • Chapter 9 Deliverance
      (pp. 252-276)

      By now we have a good sense of why people who “wanted out” of Shining Path delivered themselves to the community. However, given that deliverance was transactional, we must consider what counted as a good reason to accept the terrucukuna and to reconcile with people previously considered anticristos. I do not use “forgiving” and “reconciliation” synonymously, and neither do villagers in Ayacucho. Although the language of these rituals is that of pardon and forgiveness, groups cannot dictate forgiveness. That right inheres to the individual or individuals who have been wronged. However, reconciliation can be, simply, coexistence—which in some contexts...

    • Chapter 10 Legacies: Bad Luck, Angry Gods, and the Stranger
      (pp. 277-318)

      I think about don Fortunato, invoking the tiempos anteriores, and Juan Santiago exhorting people to leave the past behind because it had “already rotted” and now is the time to “move forward.” Each man was attempting to construct a before and after, a sense of ending and of beginning. These efforts are complicated for people living in communities steeped in blood and memories, engaged in social reconstruction amid the living legacies of a civil conflict. The present is shot through with memories of the past and hopes for the future; at times memories weigh upon the living as a curse;...

  8. Part IV. Looking South

    • Chapter 11 Living with “Those People”
      (pp. 321-360)

      It was within the context of the PTRC that my research team and I began working with four communities that had been militant Shining Path support bases. While I had visited the provinces of Víctor Fajardo and Vilcashuamán before, these had been short visits driven by the syncopated rhythm of consulting projects. I remember being struck by the contrast between the alturas of Huanta and this region to the south. There was much less infrastructural damage. I was surprised to see so many buildings, including Catholic churches, standing intact. Yet those images were interlaced with others of elderly women passed...

    • Chapter 12 Facing Up to the Past
      (pp. 361-392)

      On his first day in Hualla, José Carlos was taken aside and warned: “Be careful while you’re here.” During the weeks prior to our visit, there had been a volley of anonymous notes sent to various members of the community. Some of the notes had included death threats, while others assured the recipient that “sooner or later, the pueblo will judge you.” Still others insisted “the pueblo will never forgive so much spilled blood.” People’s daily encounters with local-level perpetrators are a constant reminder of lives losts, accounts unsettled, and the burden of unpunished crime.

      In this chapter I draw...

  9. Afterword
    (pp. 393-394)

    My personal and professional commitments in Peru continue, and I imagine they will for the rest of my life. Books, however, must end. Thinking about how best to end this one was a struggle. I realize that readers might feel emotionally taxed by the time they reach this afterword; might feel a certain despair when contemplating the tremendous cruelty that human beings can inflict on one another. That is undoubtedly part of the story contained in these pages, but it is only one part. Any effort to understand postconflict reconstruction must be attuned both to devastation as well as to...

  10. Notes
    (pp. 395-424)
  11. Glossary
    (pp. 425-426)
  12. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 427-446)
  13. Index
    (pp. 447-458)
  14. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 459-464)