William Stein sets two goals in his volume on Atusparia. One is to use extensive quotations and several appendixes to collect and preserve the essential documentary base available on the 1885 uprising. The other is to vindicate the complexity of the movement and of peasant consciousness. In contrast to earlier studies that tended to see the Atusparia rebellion as a tax revolt, jacquerie, messianic or millenarian movement, or race war, Stein argues convincingly for a multilayered uprising in which uneasy coalitions of peasants and urban merchants, Indians, and mestizo intellectuals all held diverse agendas. He also sees a strong participation by Cacerista agents, and suggests that the millenarian or “Inca” elements so long attributed to the Indian masses were in fact intellectual constructions elaborated by a few urban mestizo collaborators.
The book’s weaknesses come largely out of its strengths. In his eagerness to preserve the historical record, Stein provides large chunks of undigested materials and tends to use citation as a substitute for analysis. In his enthusiasm to prove the political and intellectual complexity of the Atusparia uprising, he dismisses the possibility of a racial component by denying a complex social dynamic to race, defining it either as a biological category or as a proxy for class. He also confines any utopian or millenarian elements to the category of mestizo manipulation, and in so doing misses the opportunity for dialogue with the increasingly complex and contradictory literature on the Andean utopia.
In their edited collection on various kinds of violent crime in Peru, Aguirre and Walker bring together a wide variety of work by Andeanist social historians and anthropologists that spans the gamut from urban to rural, coastal to highland, oral history to textual analysis. All told, the volume constitutes a good cross section of the work done over the past ten years. The most provocative essays are those by Aguirre, Walker, and Deborah Poole. Though their topics are extremely different—runaway slaves and bandits for Aguirre, the discursive construction of a racist indigenista criminology for Poole, and the problematic alliance between popular bandits or montoneros and liberal politicians for Walker—the essays share a concern to move beyond the data and confront its deeper implications for our understanding of why Peruvians have failed to construct a more inclusive and egalitarian polity. Beyond these three pieces, the essays Eric Langer and Benjamin Orlove (both previously published in English) are less conceptually or politically ambitious, yet each provides an important example of the benefits of particular methodologies. Langer demonstrates the value of comparative history in his analysis of banditry and rural social movements in two Bolivian provinces, while Orlove proves the centrality of ethnographic field work and knowledge of indigenous languages to the successful reconstruction of popular experience “from below.” Ricardo Valderrama and Carmen Escalante are also to be complimented for recording and reproducing the oral history of a cattle rustler in Cuzco, though in this case the data remain relatively undigested.
The other essays are empirically rich case studies of banditry or rural violence in different parts of Peruvian territory—Carmen Vivanco on the colonial coast, Ward Stavig on late colonial Cuzco, Eric Mayer on nineteenth- and twentieth-century Ayacucho, and Lewis Taylor on Hualgayoc. While all four provide interesting new data on crime—dialoguing in particular with Eric Hobsbawm’s concept of the social bandit—the analytical results are less clear. Taylor confirms Hobsbawm’s model for Hualgayoc, while Stavig disproves it for Cuzco. Vivanco claims a strictly economic model for the causes of colonial banditry, while Mayer argues for the importance of ecological factors. In the end, none of these authors ties any findings to broader questions about Peruvian politics or society, frustrating the reader who wishes to find some common threads of inquiry.
Read together, these two books provide an excellent map of how the fields of Andean anthropology and social history have evolved in the past 35 years. A participant in the original Peru-Comell project on the hacienda Vicos in Ancash during the 1950s—when the dominant paradigms defined the Andean peasantry within a dualistic, functionalist framework and celebrated their potential modernization through education—Stein underwent a radicalization that led him to embrace Marxism and to celebrate rural and peasant movements. His study of Atusparia is a product of this personal and intellectual transformation, one of the limits of which is a continued allegiance to a class-centered model of social change. The Aguirre-Walker volume, on the other hand, constitutes a historiographical marker on the other side of this broad transition. Edited by two young scholars still in the process of completing their graduate work, it represents the work dime Elfter the first “great transformation,” pioneered by Stein, among others, which has culminated in the coming of age of a new generation. As the best essays in the volume show, this new generation has the potential to move way beyond its predecessors, unfettered by their limitations. Yet the uneven quality of the book as a whole must serve as a warning that new is not always better, and that a broad commitment to explaining Peruvian politics and society, both theoretically and analytically, need not be abandoned in the search for more and deeper empirical materials.