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Everyday Revolutionaries

Everyday Revolutionaries: Gender, Violence, and Disillusionment in Postwar El Salvador

Copyright Date: 2011
Published by: Rutgers University Press
Pages: 288
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  • Book Info
    Everyday Revolutionaries
    Book Description:

    Everyday Revolutionariesprovides a longitudinal and rigorous analysis of the legacies of war in a community racked by political violence. By exploring political processes in one of El Salvador's former war zones-a region known for its peasant revolutionary participation-Irina Carlota Silber offers a searing portrait of the entangled aftermaths of confrontation and displacement, aftermaths that have produced continued deception and marginalization.Silber provides one of the first rubrics for understanding and contextualizing postwar disillusionment, drawing on her ethnographic fieldwork and research on immigration to the United States by former insurgents. With an eye for gendered experiences, she unmasks how community members are asked, contradictorily and in different contexts, to relinquish their identities as "revolutionaries" and to develop a new sense of themselves as productive yet marginal postwar citizens via the same "participation" that fueled their revolutionary action. Beautifully written and offering rich stories of hope and despair,Everyday Revolutionariescontributes to important debates in public anthropology and the ethics of engaged research practices.

    eISBN: 978-0-8135-5018-3
    Subjects: Anthropology, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  4. List of Organizations
    (pp. xv-xvi)
    (pp. xvii-xx)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-9)

    From late afternoon until evening on most days, a group of men kneel, squat, and sit as they play cards and gamble a bit of their money in front of a family-run store (tienda) which also serves as a bus stop. Some smoke Salvadoran cigarettes, some drink community-produced grain alcohol, and there is a lot of talk amidst the thumping of the cards onto the cement floor. Their mothers, sisters, and wives are home finishing up the day’s labors, after which they, too, visit neighbors, chat and gossip at other nearby tiendas, or watch Mexican soap operas on TV. These...

  7. 1 Entangled Aftermaths
    (pp. 10-30)

    Postwar El Salvador is defined by what I term theentangled aftermathsof war and displacement, aftermaths that have produced postwar deception and disillusionment. I use the metaphor of entanglement to theorize postwar lives as enmeshed, ensnared, confused, and intertwined yet deeply involved.¹ It is in this material, physical, and internal space that Chalatecos live with their embodied trauma and speak for a generation lost to war and for the next generation socialized through it. In this enmeshing people reflect upon the lies of revolution and democracy and remake their worlds in fraught spaces and times. For in the transition...

  8. 2 Histories of Violence/Histories of Organizing
    (pp. 31-40)

    Scholarship on El Salvador—historical, sociological, comparative, feminist, and ethnographic—has exploded over the last decade, contributing to our understanding of the formation of regional social, political, and economic relationships of power through time. An attention to historical processes provides a window into the multiple factors that shape and are shaped by the broadly defined “everyday revolutionaries” that are at the heart of this book. This chapter points to salient moments and interpretations of the past in order to contextualize what I later develop as the limits of activism and revolution over time and space. The following chapter builds from...

  9. 3 Rank-and-File History
    (pp. 41-69)

    The young priest Padre José, the son of peasants from Ojos de Agua, traveled throughout Chalatenango’s rural communities in a small white jeep.¹ Usually dressed in jeans and a T-shirt, he put on only a white cloak tied with a simple length of twine to hold mass in churches still half rebuilt, some with benches, some without benches, or sometimes under trees. He celebrated first communions with children dressed in white and led in other ritual celebrations. After a year of attending these different events by Padre José, who was trained in and practiced the teachings of liberation theology, I...

  10. NGO War Stories
    (pp. 70-74)

    On July 23, 1993, after my first long stretch in El Rancho, I met with Daysi to update her on my experiences and observations. I remember the rush of that afternoon vividly. I was in awe of the CORDES director. I wanted her input and, yes, approval. I can still feel the intimacy encircling the two of us as I sat beside Daysi watching her multitask: comment on the situation I described, tell me her narrative of survival, and edit yet another grant proposal.

    I had a bit to report that afternoon. During my first stay in a repopulated community...

  11. 4 NGOs in the Postwar Period
    (pp. 75-88)

    The ride to El Rancho felt bumpier than usual as I held onto Walter. I was thankful for the motorcycle ride, and thankful that the bike had not broken down in the rain, forcing us to wait for the less-than-frequent sound of a pickup truck to stop and give us a ride back to the capital city. Walter dropped me off and introduced me to Rodolfo, another CORDEStécnico,slightly older and specializing in cattle projects. While Walter headed for the women’s chicken coop to organize the final leg of construction, I decided to walk with Rodolfo to one of...

  12. Stitching Wounds and Frying Chicken
    (pp. 89-90)

    It was supposed to snow on the evening of the thirteenth of January, and I was hoping for enough snowfall to arguably keep me home. I had that familiar eve-of-bus-ride-to-Chalatenango feeling—anxious, looking for excuses to visit NGO offices in the capital rather than travel to El Rancho and traverse the Troncal del Norte. Only this was the New Jersey Transit bus system, and I was leaving from New York City. Why the nerves? I decided upon another route and took the train instead. It was bitter cold, and Chayo was waiting for me at the station, woefully underdressed in...

  13. 5 Not Revolutionary Enough?
    (pp. 91-110)

    The road was hilly and winding, and the air cool. I sat in the back of an old but cared for Nissan truck, this one with cushions and seatbelts—a luxury vehicle by El Rancho standards. Chico and Chayo were seated up front and offered to show me the landscape. I learned early that tagging along and getting a lay of the land would be a critical aspect of my fieldwork methodology. For Chalatecos war was everyday and rooted in territory. To rebuild the region involved not only the backbreaking physical labor of erecting homes, clearing land, starting anew, but...

  14. FMLN Snapshots
    (pp. 111-117)

    It was breezy that night in Las Vueltas. The air held nostalgia. Residents from communities across the municipality, farther away than El Rancho, had arrived for FMLN municipal elections. Local party representatives were to be elected to represent the municipality at the departmental political party level.

    It was also a night to remember, to see old friends, former neighbors, and kin. For the making of politics, I argue, is an embodied historic and social process. As we approached the town hall, the rich smell of coffee and tamales reached the group with whom I traveled. And there was already a...

  15. 6 Cardboard Democracy
    (pp. 118-134)

    Imagine a typical CORDES training session funded through international development dollars. It is the dry season and thirty-five women are in a stiflingly hot room. No fan, no air circulation. Road repair noise—jackhammers, whistles, concrete cracking, shovels smacking—enters through two small windows and echoes inside, increasing the volume of women’s voices and the intermittent laughter, cries, and scampering of half a dozen children. Childcare is unavailable. Bathroom facilities are “closed” (though used) due to lack of water, which happens often. The heat and stench rise as the day continues. With late afternoon approaching, the poster paper taped against...

  16. Aftermaths of Solidarity
    (pp. 135-136)
  17. 7 Conning Revolutionaries
    (pp. 137-162)

    In December 1996, bus number 125 travels on the Troncal del Norte, the “highway” from San Salvador to Chalatenango. Along the way, the landscape is densely populated, with house after house lining the road and very little green in between. The bus passes by key cities and towns such as Apopa, Guazapa, Aguilares, and El Paraíso. At each stop, lasting about one minute, venders sell their wares, sodas,pupusas, pastelitos(popovers), and ice cream, through the open windows. Twocobradores(conductors) always work the bus, helping people on and off and loading the heaviest of supplies onto the roof. One...

  18. Postwar Dance
    (pp. 163-164)
  19. 8 The Postwar Highway
    (pp. 165-188)

    Seven-year-old Miguel with his broad grin and electrified blond hair was the first person I saw through the bus window as I approached the rural community of El Rancho on a hot, late morning in November 1996.¹ He was racing along the cracked cement road, dragging a deflated red balloon on a string, hoping to catch some air. Miguel was dangerously and nearly underfoot of the aging, unsteady, local bus making its second trip from the rural capital city of Chalatenango to El Rancho. Despite what at the time I understood as so many “lacks,” he wore an everyday exterior...

  20. Epilogue: Amor Lejos, Amor de Pendejos
    (pp. 189-202)

    Writing in 2007, Veena Das, ethnographer-philosopher, locates her project on violence in the everyday. InLife and Words,shejuxtaposesdifferent moments, kinds, and narratives of violence through time and in doing so theorizes violence not as the fantastic but rather as the ordinary. This book has been inspired by Das’s reflections and, in particular, by the ways in which she structures her questions. She writes, “I ask whether a different picture of victims and survivors is possible in which time is not frozen but is allowed to do its work” (Das 2007, 211). I have sought to answer this...

  21. NOTES
    (pp. 203-218)
    (pp. 219-230)
  23. INDEX
    (pp. 231-238)
  24. Back Matter
    (pp. 239-239)