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After Revolution

Florence E. Babb
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    After Revolution
    Book Description:

    Nicaragua's Sandinista revolution (1979-1990) initiated a broad program of social transformation to improve the situation of the working class and poor, women, and other non-elite groups through agrarian reform, restructured urban employment, and wide access to health care, education, and social services. This book explores how Nicaragua's least powerful citizens have fared in the years since the Sandinista revolution, as neoliberal governments have rolled back these state-supported reforms and introduced measures to promote the development of a market-driven economy.

    Drawing on ethnographic research conducted throughout the 1990s, Florence Babb describes the negative consequences that have followed the return to a capitalist path, especially for women and low-income citizens. In addition, she charts the growth of women's and other social movements (neighborhood, lesbian and gay, indigenous, youth, peace, and environmental) that have taken advantage of new openings for political mobilization. Her ethnographic portraits of a low-income barrio and of women's craft cooperatives powerfully link local, cultural responses to national and global processes.

    eISBN: 978-0-292-79653-9
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Chapter One INTRODUCTION: Writing after Revolution
    (pp. 1-22)

    NICARAGUA captured the world’s imagination and received almost obsessive attention after the victory of the Sandinista revolution two decades ago. This small Central American nation’s success in ending a forty-three-year dictatorship and its efforts to bring about a broad program of social transformation that included agrarian reform, restructured urban employment, and wide access to health care, education, and social services were observed from afar with both admiration and consternation. In Nicaragua, opposition to the Somoza dictatorship was broad based, but lines were drawn early on between supporters and critics of the revolutionary government that came to power, even when it...

  5. Chapter Two NEGOTIATING SPACES: The Gendered Politics of Location
    (pp. 23-45)

    NICARAGUA was at the center of international attention when the revolutionary struggle of the 1970s led into the Sandinista decade of the 1980s. In the social imagination of that decade, especially in the United States, the Central American nation loomed large. When I gave a talk drawing on my preliminary research at an anthropology conference in 1990, a man asked me what was the population of Nicaragua. When I replied that it was a little over three million people, he responded quickly, “I find that hard to believe.” Like many who depend on the mass media to frame their views...

  6. Chapter Three “MANAGUA IS NICARAGUA”: Gender, Memory, and Cultural Politics
    (pp. 46-69)

    LATIN AMERICA is often said to receive attention from the United States only when there is a revolution or natural disaster.¹ Nicaragua has experienced both in its recent history, with a significant impact on its capital city, Managua. The Sandinista revolution brought about a process of progressive social transformation in the small Central American country, while earthquakes, volcanoes, and hurricanes have wrought untold destruction there and in neighboring countries in the last decades. The earthquake in 1972 destroyed most of Managua, leaving it a wasteland. Hurricane Joan in 1988 targeted the Atlantic Coast and Hurricane Mitch ten years later concentrated...

  7. Chapter Four A PLACE ON A MAP: The Local and the National Viewed from the Barrio
    (pp. 70-106)

    RECALLING Adrienne Rich’s words, “a place on a map is also a place in history,” here I offer an ethnographic portrait of a Managua neighborhood that has experienced much of what the city and the country have undergone in recent decades. Described by one resident as “the flower of the revolution,” Barrio Monseñor Lezcano, in the western part of Managua, is known for having retained its traditional character after the 1972 earthquake and for its participation in the final offensive in June 1979, but like some other “combative” barrios, it has since expressed a more pluralist politics. Despite the barrio’s...

  8. Chapter Five UNMAKING THE REVOLUTION: Women, Urban Cooperatives, and Neoliberalism
    (pp. 107-150)

    PROGRAMS of stabilization and structural adjustment spread widely throughout Latin America during the 1980s. In revolutionary Nicaragua, the Sandinista government introduced adjustment programs late in the decade, but harsher measures mandated by the imf and the World Bank came later, after the 1990 elections ushered in the uno government of Violeta Chamorro. A debate emerged over the consequences of these measures for the most vulnerable social groups—in Nicaragua as elsewhere, the poor, women, and children. Yet in Nicaragua the recent history of social mobilization prepared these groups in distinct ways to confront the devastating effects of neoliberal economic programs,...

    (pp. 151-174)

    THE RAPID dismantling of socialist economies over the last decade, as the Soviet Union and eastern Europe have undergone dramatic transformations, has led to intense debates on the perceived failures of socialism and, for some, the inevitability of capitalism and the rule of the market. In such discussions, comparisons with China are sometimes drawn, but little mention is made of Latin American experiments with socialism. This also holds true for recent discussions of the politics of gender relations after socialism, which have focused productively on eastern Europe and Russia but generally do not consider the Latin American region (Gal and...

    (pp. 175-202)

    IN July 1993, at a meeting held in Managua for women working in co-operatives, the participants listened patiently as one man after another addressed them about the need to develop political consciousness during a period when the country was experiencing the harsh effects of capitalism and globalization. Finally, a woman stood up and confidently exhorted the assembled group to organize against the oppressive forces of neoliberalism and postmodernism. I never learned what led her to include postmodernism as a capitalist threat although she clearly viewed it, along with neoliberalism, as emblematic of the late twentieth century. Her words serve as...

    (pp. 203-239)

    ON March 8, 1991, International Women’s Day was celebrated in Managua. At the time, my research was still getting under way; my computer had been held up in transit from the United States to the American embassy in Managua because of heightened security imposed during the Gulf War. I was fortunate to have the use of a computer at the incae, where I had an office that year. And it was there that I attended a panel discussion and cocktail party in honor of women that day. I had been asked to be on the panel as the new resident...

  12. Chapter Nine CONCLUSION: Remembering Nicaragua
    (pp. 240-262)

    THE close of the twentieth century and the millennium has prompted us to look back and to look forward, to take stock of global changes during our lifetimes and to imagine what future may already be in the making. Recent retrospectives have considered the dismantling of the Soviet Union and the Berlin Wall a decade later to see what hopes were fulfilled and what disappointments have followed in the postsocialist era. Far fewer reflections have been offered concerning changes of the last several decades in Latin America, where the demise of socialist governments in a few nations and persistent repression...

  13. NOTES
    (pp. 263-280)
    (pp. 281-294)
  15. INDEX
    (pp. 295-304)