Violence in the Andean Region is a translation of seven essays by leading social scientists from the Andes, the culmination of a multiyear project sponsored by Holland. The essays summarize much of the best research on violence in relation to a number of key topics (the state, the drug trade, the media, and everyday life). They also make important theoretical and policy recommendations. While some of the arguments are a bit too cautious and the translation sometimes lags, the authors eschew “development-speak” and propose cogent interpretations. And although they are a bit specialized for most students, the essays will be useful to those working on these issues.
Unruly Order presents nine essays on the High Provinces of the Southern Peruvian Andes, a rugged, isolated area long characterized by a weak state, omni-present bosses (gamonales), and supposedly “uncivilized” Indians. Violence is a key element in this folklore and, as the book shows, in daily life. Not only is rustling a major activity, but labor and political relations are marked by coercion, heightened since the 1980s with the violence by and against Shining Path.
Deborah Poole’s introduction to this book is dazzling, and deserves a broad readership. She provides a strong historical overview and summarizes innovative theoretical perspectives on violence, demonstrating their relevance for the Andes. In this respect, she outlines interpretations that place violence as a central part of social relations rather than an aberration. Poole also develops an important argument: that race is a central element of Andean people’s ideology, and that its construction and practice need to be addressed. While social scientists are more comfortable with the term ethnicity, race is the concept employed in the Andes.
All the essays emphasize peasant agency and, to varying degrees, apply post-structuralist views on the multiple understandings and representations of violence. In the second of her three chapters, Poole traces how both gamonales and Cuzco indigenista intellectuals created a highly gendered and often nostalgic depiction of the “untamed” and violent High Provinces, presenting themselves as saviors who could bridle the Indians’ “indomitable spirit.” She then analyzes how these notions are recreated in contemporary ritual. In his two contributions—one on a 1931 skirmish between the police and Indians and the other on ritual battles—Benjamin Orlove examines diverse ways that violence is comprehended and presented. Peter Gose emphasizes the ubiquity of race in Andean practice and discourse, showing how racial notions shape spatial divisions in the town of Huaquirca.
José Luis Rénique analyzes political struggles of the 1980s in the High Provinces and the Lake Titicaca area, where the peasant movement thwarted the Shining Path. While analysts have presented the region as an unusual success story of civil society in Peru in the 1980s, Rénique deftly chronicles the complexity and human cost of those battles. The other essays provide a useful geographical and historical overview of the region and examine the legacy of the 1969 agrarian reform in one community.
While the introduction and many of the articles demonstrate the promise of recent thinking on violence, the concluding essay by Poole is less satisfactory. Arguing that different ideological blinders inhibited a full understanding of Shining Path by Peruvian and foreign intellectuals, Poole brings in the French Revolution, Foucault on fascism, and Abimael Guzman’s dense thesis to examine the guerrilla group. Her criticism is at times exaggerated and her alternative views are, in some regards, unconvincing. Not only is it presumptuous to imply that such disparate topics must be mastered in order to comprehend Shining Path, but her explanation does not adequately address why some groups supported this movement. In contrast, the sections of her conclusion on violence in the Upper Provinces are as innovative and intelligent as her other contributions, drawing together the key points of this fine volume. By focusing on a particular region, compiling the work of outstanding scholars, and incorporating innovative theoretical perspectives, Unruly Order constitutes a landmark book not only for Andean studies but also social theory.