Who Counts?: The Mathematics of Death and Life after Genocide
Diane M. Nelson is Professor of Cultural Anthropology at Duke University and the author of A Finger in the Wound: Body Politics in Quincentennial Guatemala; she is also the author of Reckoning: The Ends of War in Guatemala and coeditor of War by Other Means: Aftermath in Post-Genocide Guatemala, both also published by Duke University Press.
This chapter tells the story of a Mayan woman, over the sixteen years the author has known her, who went from being a hamlet schoolteacher and cultural rights activist through increasing involvement in transnational networks—which were like and unlike the ngo connections pushing education, development, and postwar trauma resolution she once worked for—to being “100% Omnilife.” Omnilife is a Mexico-based vitamin business, sales of which allow people to accumulate points as well as profit from people lower down in their “pyramid.” Former guerrillas, grassroots organizers, Mayan movement activists, and doctors and other professionals are now financializing their “social capital” by converting their networks of friends and acquaintances into cash and other prizes. As their houses fill with accounting paperwork, sociality and imaginings of political futures are transformed in hard-to-account-for ways.