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Disarming the Subject:
Remembering War and Imagining Citizenship in Peru

Kimberly Theidon[*]

War and its aftermath serve as powerful motivators for the elaboration and transmission of individual, communal and national histories. These histories both reflect and constitute human experience as they contour social memory and produce their truth effects. These histories use the past in a creative manner, combining and recombining elements of that past in service to interests in the present. In this sense, the conscious appropriation of history involves both memory and forgetting — both being dynamic processes permeated with intentionality.

In this essay I explore the political use of the narratives being elaborated in rural villages in the department of Ayacucho regarding the internal war that convulsed Peru for some fifteen years. I suggest that each narrative has a political intent and assumes both an internal and external audience. Indeed, the deployment of war narratives has much to do with forging new relations of power, ethnicity and gender that are integral to the contemporary politics of the region. I argue that these new relations impact the construction of democratic practices and the model of citizenship being elaborated in the current context.

Equally, these narratives serve as a central component in the elaboration of local and national identities, taking the heroic war epic as the structure that guides both the form and the content of these histories. This epic style emphasizes masculine heroism, and has been canonized not only in these communities but in the academic literature as well.[1] The “homogenizing” of these narratives has obscured alternative experiences and understandings of the war, compacting polyphonic memories into the dominant war story paradigm (Cooke 1996). Indeed, this masculine version of the war — of ronderos defending their villages, defeating Sendero Luminoso and establishing new democratic practices and demands for citizenship — obscures the disjunctive and contradictory construction of citizenship in these villages[2]. I argue that these disjunctions reflect the axes of differentiation that operate within these villages — axes that include gender, generation and ethnicity.

If indeed the war has permitted subaltern sectors of the rural population to seize the national stage in a slow and intermittent construction of citizenship, armed participation against Sendero Luminoso and the relationship the rondas formed with the armed forces have reinforced patriarchal relations within these villages, resulting in an unequal exercise of rights and sense of belonging to that imagined community called the nation. National integration achieved via participation in an armed conflict influences the political culture that follows, contributing to what Caldeira and Holston call “disjunctive democracy.” As they explain:

By calling democracy disjunctive, we want to emphasize that it comprises processes in the institutionalization, practice, and meaning of citizenship that are never uniform or homogeneous. Rather, they are normally uneven, unbalanced, irregular, heterogeneous, arrhythmic, and indeed contradictory. The concept of disjunctive democracy stresses, therefore, that at any one moment citizenship may expand in one area of rights as it contracts in another. The concept also means that democracy’s distribution and depth among a population of citizens in a given political space are uneven (Caldeira and Holston 1996:717).
That the distribution of democracy varies according to the axes of differentiation which riddle any given political space — be it the nation or a campesino community — explodes the notion that one can speak of the “subaltern” or the “popular” as a monolithic group whose interests flow “naturally” from members’ marginalized position. Any binary logic that constructs a rigid dichotomy between “the official” and “the popular” obscures both the fluidity within such a dichotomy as well as the fragmentation that exists on each side of the great divide, falling into what Spivak calls “the ferocious apartheid of binary oppositions.”

If indeed binary oppositions are ferocious, metanarratives also bare their teeth in establishing the terms of engagement. This same binary logic manifests in many texts on political repression, post-war processes and memory. There is a repetitive analytic structure that informs both academic as well as activist production regarding these themes. On one side of the dichotomy is the category “official memory.” This category appears cloaked in various names and adjectives: “State,” “institutional,” “dominant groups,” “hegemonic memory” — in short, “bad or repressive memory.” On the other side lies “popular memory.” The bearers and adjectives are “subaltern groups,” “the marginalized,” “civil society,” or “counter-hegemonic memory” — in short, “good or emancipatory memory.” Reflecting psychoanalytic influence on our thinking about memory, somehow that which is repressed is imbued with “the truth” — the repressed holds the proverbial key to the really real. Thus, the implicit goal is to supplant “official memory” with “popular memory” as an intrinsically democratic project.

However, is it true that power and stratification do not operate within “the subaltern” or “the popular”? What happens to the axes of differentiation previously mentioned? To homogenize “the popular” is to erase the fact that it can be simultaneously oppositional and hegemonic in any given context. As Mallon argues:

The question of complicity, hierarchy, and surveillance within subaltern communities and subaltern cultures is a thorny one indeed, one that cries out for nuanced and sympathetic treatment. On the one side, raising this question makes clear that no subaltern identity can be pure and transparent; most subalterns are both dominated and dominating subjects, depending on the circumstances or location in which we encounter them (Mallon 194:1511)[3].
Thus my goal in this essay is to decentralize the production of memories — always in the plural — without reproducing this binary analytic structure. I seek to illuminate both the democratic potential of these campesino war narratives as well as capture the manner in which the power of speech — the authority to narrate these events — remains solidly in the mouths of men. Thus I strive to preserve the polyphony that interrupts the metanarrative, hoping that the multiplication of historic voices may contribute to the construction of a democracy that is less disjunctive and more inclusive.

The information I use in this essay is drawn from fieldwork conducted in various communities throughout rural Ayacucho between 1995-99[4]. I complement this information with written documents, Libros de Actas from several of the communities studied, and written histories from local authorities. My research includes villages in the highlands of the northern portion of Ayacucho, a region which played a central role in the rise and fall of Sendero Luminoso, and where the repopulation effort begun in 1994 has been the most intense. Additionally, the process of return and pacification achieved in the zone implies new social actors that extend beyond the military presence. Indeed, the presence of nongovernmental organizations and state entities complexifies relations in these rural villages, and plays an important role in the campesino nationalisms being imagined in rural Ayacucho.

Militarizing Masculinity

In 1991 a young rondero in Huayllay in the province of Huamanga explained to my colleague Ponciano Del Pino the rupture in power relations with Sendero Luminoso (SL) and the initiation of an organized peasant response in the form of Committees of Civil Defense (known as rondas campesinas). During the early years of the war, peasant’s relationship with SL was characterized by a strategy of coexistence; that is, an ambiguous posture regarding the potential benefits the guerrilla offered and a willingness to wait and see if the insurgent discourse consisted of more than mere words. However, this relationship deteriorated rapidly due to the authoritarian practices and lethal violence of the insurgents, and the corresponding military pressures. In the words of this young rondero, the organized campesina response to SL implied a change on behalf of the campesinos — a change in consciousness that he summed up as “the people began to get macho.”[5]

This campesina response extended rapidly throughout many northern communities in Ayacucho, where villagers institutionalized defense activities in their rondas campesinas.[6] The rondas obviously offered a response to external threats; however, they brought with them contradictory implications with respect to relationships within the villages themselves.

The trajectory of the rondas varied from region to region and, frequently, from community to community[7]. However, initially the rondas were headed by existing communal authorities and within the framework of established organizational structures. Moreover, in the Libros de Actas from the villages of Balcón and Carhuapampa in Tambo and Carhuahurán in Huanta, the participation of both men and women in communal defense is noted[8]. These communal documents indicate that widows and single mothers were required to patrol during the day. This participation is corroborated in my interviews with female villagers. For example, in testimonies from women in Carhuahurán and its annexes, they described their role in the defense of their communities. In contrast with essentializing images of women escaping and hiding, various women spoke of how “we defended ourselves with rocks, knives and slingshots.” In addition to their armed participation, women routinely followed the rondas on their sweeps of the countryside, providing food and carrying ammunition. Armed conflict challenged accepted codes of conduct and established gender roles. However, militarization essentialized those roles — not in the moment of combat, but in the subsequent narration.

The presence of women in defense activities was maintained throughout the war, but without official recognition of their role. This lack of recognition was not due to the absence of women but rather to the masculinist values with which the military arrived in the zone. The construction of the “hyper-masculinity” of the warrior did not provide discursive space for the protagonism of rural women in the war effort. Indeed, the military presence brought with it new models of both masculinity and femininity that were superimposed on existing conceptions of gender, emphasizing the hierarchical aspects of this relation rather than the complementarity that was a frequent theme in the study of gender in the Andes (Arnold 1997; Harris 1978; Isbell 1979; Silverblatt 1987; Reynaga 1996)[9]. In fact, this example allows one to criticize a certain myopia in the literature, which constructs a complementarity model utilizing the household as the unit of analysis, obscuring both the inequalities within the family as well as the gendered concepts that mold the broader and unequal world in which those households are located.

When the uneasy alliance between the military and the civilian population grew closer, leading to the formation of special self-defense units composed of young ronderos who were paid by the community to patrol on a full-time basis, social distance and hierarchies of power based on the categories of gender, generation and ethnicity were exacerbated. These young ronderos assumed not only the military discourse but also a constellation of practices that constituted a new way of being male. In their nommes de guerre — Rambo, Beast, Tiger, Wolf — they sought to construct an identity that rejected all elements considered feminine, read “weak.” As a consequence, the identity they constructed was in sharp contrast with feminine values, permitting these young warriors to define themselves as the “most macho.” This new way of “being a man” drew upon globalized forms of armed masculinity — elements of the “universal soldier” depicted in the action films which are omnipresent in the region — to establish a new posture within the communities as well as between these men and the state. They were no longer humble campesinos, heads hung low and eyes averted as they interacted with the greater society in which they were considered ignorant — no longer disdained campesinos with minimal access to resources such as education or the command of Spanish. As Nelson suggests in her work on Guatemala, “The Indian is often coded as female,” precisely for their minimal access to such resources, and the role of these resources in defining manhood (Nelson 1999:26). To be a warrior was a means to close the distance between a feminized identity and a desired masculinity.

In this process of militarization — a process that involves not only structural changes but also shifts in consciousness — communal organization ceded to the hegemony of the Civil Defense Committees and their commandos. On the one hand, the Senderistas assassinated many communal authorities as part of their campaign to “descabezar” (behead) campesino communities and subject them to their revolutionary ideology. On the other hand, the traditional exercise of power was displaced by a new leadership contingent composed of young ronderos. The new cadre inverted generational power as these young men “retired” a generation of older communal authorities. This new leadership legitimated itself on their protagonism during the war and the close relationship they maintained with the military. Thus, the war ended up in the hands of young warriors, who subsequently would immortalize this period via communal histories. Clearly wars are fought; they are also told.

Belonging to the special patrols — being a member of “The Tigers”[10]— signified for these young men recognition within the community and access to male prestige in public presentations. This symbolic capital was frequently channeled by these young men in their search for a romantic partner, and was also used to challenge traditional hierarchies of power, inverting relationships that had previously granted authority and respect to older men and, to a lesser degree, older women.

However, these young ronderos would encounter competition for the title of “the most macho” within the new hierarchy. If indeed they had this self-perception as a result of the struggle with Sendero, the soldiers were not so ready to cede this title to them. Among the strategies utilized to establish power, the soldiers in turn “feminized” the ronderos. In my interviews with officials in the military bases of Carhuahurán and Qellaqocha, these officials insisted that during Senderista attacks, the village men escaped with their weapons, leaving the women and children behind. In the military version of the attacks, the ronderos are not portrayed in the heroic role that they themselves depict; rather, it would be the soldiers who saved these communities, implying that the village men were unable to fulfill their role in defending “their own women.”

But there were other social actors on the scene — the Senderistas. Throughout the war, the Senderista militants also made use of feminization in order to question the valor of their enemies. In this case, the Senderistas called the soldiers “faggots” who were too frightened to leave the security of their bases. Additionally, villagers recount that the Senderistas would stand on the hilltops, drop their pants, and taunt them by saying “try and get my ass if you can,” playing on the rifle as a metonym for the penis. Thus, we witness the multiple masculinities deployed in the search to establish relations of power and legitimacy within the context of new militarized models of what it means to “be a man.” It is the construction and predominance of these values that one could call “militarized patriarchy” and which constitute the context in which these populations have lived for twenty years[11].

However, it is not only the men who were playing with these multiple masculinities. The women also inscribed themselves within this scene. Due to the demands of the political violence and the absence of their loved ones, widows and single mothers were forced to redefine their roles and assume new responsibilities with regard to defense and, in some cases, ended up as presidents of their communities and commandos of the rondas. For example, President Modesta of Pampay, a village in the valley of Huanta, related her own trajectory and how she came to be first commando of the village’s ronda campesina in 1988 and then president of her community in 1994:

“We were left as widows here, so many widows. So we were obliged to take up cargos (communal responsibilities). Because we are widows and our sons have left to work in other areas — want to or not, we had to do something.”
President Modesta then spoke about her experience as commando of the ronda in Pampay.
Question: “And how did you patrol, with arms?”
Modesta: “Yes, with arms. Chewing our coca, that’s how we took care of ourselves. We put ourselves in the position of a man.”
Question: “Was there great fear?
Modesta: “Oh yes, much fear. We were thinking that they (Sendero) might arrive by day or by night and kill us all. But we are experts in all this. When a dog so much as barks, we are already jumping; with all we’ve been through, we’re experts.”
The idea of “putting oneself in the position of a man” reflects the extent to which the taking of public space and assumption of power is associated with this militarized patriarchy. In fact, the woman who was serving as commando in Pampay told me “We carry out the defense with arms, qarichakuspanchik (making ourselves macho)”.[12] The process of “making oneself macho” is not limited to the women of Pampay. According to information provided by these same authorities, in 1994 there were 22 women from different villages throughout the Huanta valley who attended coordinating meetings with the civil defense patrols in the military base in Castropampa.

I note that this relatively late presence of women in the leadership of the CACs is quite exceptional and speaks not only to the absence of their husbands but also to a redefinition of military strategy. While the early years of the war were characterized by the presence of the navy — the whitest and most elite branch of the Peruvian armed forces — subsequent counter-insurgency efforts focused on developing an alliance with civil society, resulting in a greater opening vis-à-vis local villagers and a shift to integrating “lugareños” (locals) into the ranks[13]. I suggest this integration did not imply a change regarding ideas of masculinity and femininity but rather reflected a pragmatic posture that was assumed institutionally. Additionally, this strategy formed part of the national narrative of “Fujimorismo”.[14]. This triumphant narrative emphasized the alliance between the armed forces and the civilian population, rather than the massacres, rapes and other abuses that were also part of the history of Peru’s internal war.

However, I underscore that the role of women was not limited only to this process of qarichaskupanchik; they also developed multiple identities, which responded to the abrupt changes that accompanied the years of war. Women remained responsible for maintaining the home in the face of the dual challenges of political violence and the poverty that was sharply exacerbated by the war.

I argue that although survival may be “less dramatic” than armed struggle, an analysis of the domestic economy of war reveals the extent to which survival in itself becomes a daily struggle. Living in caves for months and sometimes years, moving from one place to another on a daily basis, cooking and caring for children under harsh conditions — these women did not limit their protagonism to epic masculinist models. As the members of the Mothers Club in Purus related, “We were so sad because we could not feed our children well. Our children cried for food, and it is the mother who must do something.” What the interviews with these women underscore is the implicit acknowledgment of women’s central role not only in production but in social reproduction — both threatened during the war, putting mere survival in doubt.

However, the active roles that women assumed during the war remain in the shadows in the communal histories that are being elaborated in these villages. I note the gap between discourse and practice: that is, the gap between the events of the war and the social memory being elaborated in this period of transition. Many of the histories about the political violence are told by and about men in the region. As Hayden White (1987) suggests, it is only an imaginary narrative that can offer us a history that is perfectly coherent, without contradictions, without multiple logics — that is, a grand heroic epic with hegemonic pretensions. Additionally, White suggests that the form of the narrative is not inert but rather actively molds the content due to the well-worn path of emplotment strategies. Certainly epic history is very familiar. Since childhood we are accustomed to the epic form as presented in stories, comic books and films. As Cooke asserts, these histories reflect the dominant war paradigm “that resuscitates worn out essentialist clichés about men’s aggressivity and women’s pacifism” (Cooke 1996:15). Moreover, as Arextaga argues in her work with nationalist women in North Ireland, such clichés reduce the protagonism of women to an anomaly within the representations of the conflict (Aretxaga 1997:10).

It is worth reflecting on the word “anomaly.” Webster’s Third New World Dictionary offers the following entries for the word. Anomaly: “The state or fact of being out of place, out of true or out of a normal or expected position; deviation from the common rule; something out of keeping especially with established or accepted notions of fitness or order.” Reducing women’s multiple subject positions both during and after the war also reduces their political space within the new order being formed upon the ashes. Clearly narratives are much more than “just so stories”: They are both the sites of and medium for political struggle.

I turn now to the histories being elaborated in Ayacucho and to the implications of these histories in the construction of local and national identities.

Memory and Narrativity: the Politics of Identity

Every community constructs a past for itself, as much to construct a sense of collectivity as to present a coherent identity to those “from the outside.” Indeed, I suggest that the conscious production of historical memory begins when a definition of collective identity is required. However, the “we” being constructed is a slippery category and can serve interests which are both inclusive and exclusive.

Clearly it is not so much a matter of whether or not to have a past as it is what past to have. Local historians become responsible for selecting which past to remember and which to forget. It is via these histories that emphasize masculine heroism that members of these communities have developed a strategic identity that has permitted them to place demands on the state.

In the testimonies I have gathered in various northern communities, where the population organized to resist Sendero, it is common to find histories with a similar narrative structure and the same nationalist discourse. The heroism of the campesina resistance appears as a central component in the construction of individual and local identities. It is an identity that offers these men recognition and pride in a society sharply marked by social, linguistic, and ethnic differences, and to present themselves vis-à-vis the state and the greater society as the legitimate “defenders of La Patria and democracy.” Indeed, in their public representations, these men perform the same militarized nationalism that they narrate. Alonso has noted that Anderson’s argument regarding imagined communities has been very useful for examining the construction of the nation. However, “Anderson does not go far enough in identifying the strategies through which ‘the imagined’ becomes ‘second nature,’ a ‘structure of feeling’ embodied in material practices and lived experience” (Alonso 1994:382). I suggest it is precisely during these performances that the concept of the nation — the perception of a nation in which they participate as citizens rather than “Indians” — is incorporated. As Connerton states, “Performative memory is bodily. Therefore, I want to argue, there is an aspect of social memory which has been greatly neglected but is absolutely essential: bodily social memory” (Connerton 1989:71). Thus these ronderos live their nationalism and make present their glorious past via these techniques du corps, embodying the nation with each high-stepping march and right hand raised to salute the flag.

For example, in Fiestas Patrias (Independence Day celebrations) in the community of Carhuahurán in 1998, the mayor addressed all of the ronderos present during the raising of the flag. Mayor Rimachi is considered a hero of the armed conflict and a legitimate historian of the war years. His own body carries the proof of his heroism: Instead of ten fingers, his knuckles end in mutilated stumps as a result of a Senderista grenade that exploded when he tore down the guerrilla’s red flag that had been defiantly raised in the hilltops bordering the village.

In this weekly raising of the Peruvian flag — a practice carried out every Sunday in rural villages throughout Ayacucho — Mayor Rimachi spoke to the crowd that had formed in rows and columns, rifles slung over their shoulders:

“Today is the anniversary of our country, and all of us as Peruvians should celebrate with pride, affection and respect. It was on a day such as today that we freed ourselves from Spanish domination, just as we fought against Sendero to defend what it means to be Peruvian. This feeling of having fought should be present in us so that we feel proud and remember that the struggle has not ended but could start anew at anytime. For this we must be ready for the task and not lose the fervor that we have had.”
I should note that the invocation of “we” did not include all members of the community. Indeed, in this flag raising ceremony — as in every other I witnessed — only the men participate as women watch from distant doorways or sit in clusters with their children. Additionally, reflecting the close relationship between language, prestige and power, Mayor Rimachi addressed the crowd in Spanish, not Quechua, which is the lengua materna of all present. Indeed, the vast majority of the ronderos gathered (and virtually all of the women occupying the periphery) are monolingual Quechua speakers, meaning they could not understand much of what the mayor said. Clearly it was more important to use the national language for its impact than to speak in a language understandable to all those assembled in the field. Anderson insists on the role of language as a vehicle for national integration, paying less analytic attention to how language may serve exclusionary purposes[15]. It is significant that Mayor Rimachi shifts registers from Quechua to Spanish in his public address: Thus he demonstrates his capacity to access extra-local power and to mediate between rural society and the nation.

Additionally, I note the glorious history of struggle that Mayor Rimachi relates, weaving together two centuries of resistance in the name of La Patria. History here is used and not merely recounted. Indeed, this reappropriation of the past is even more striking in the written history he wrote as part of a competition sponsored by a nongovernmental organization in 1997. The competition was directed towards community presidents, so that they would write the history of their communities during the war, with prizes to be awarded for the “best history.”

In a text called “The Problem of the Resisters: A History that Repeats itself after 182 years,” Mayor Rimachi begins by telling his readers “The villagers of this region have a history of rebelling since the time when the pocras allied with the chancas and the wancas to ward off the Incans who were arriving from their base in Cuzco. In the uprisings of the Iquichanos, Carhuahurán was the organizational center. In the wars of Independence, we fought for the Spaniards, later taking up arms against the dictatorship of Bolívar in 1827.” He then proceeds to chronicle the principal Senderista attacks that the community of Carhuahurán and its annexes endured, the number of deaths that resulted from said attacks, and how the “rebellious campesinos” overthrew the guerrilla. He finishes his history stating that “One can say that the best campesino is the Peruvian one for his resistance, capacity for recuperation and adaptation to inclemency, disasters and civil problems that have endured for the 14 years of the war against the subversives and how he demonstrated before history his capacity and recuperation from bad elements.”

In this glorious history of a “rebellious people,” we witness the construction of an imagined identity that spans two centuries and revindicates a population long marginalized as mere “chutos” (savages) of the highlands. In seizing the public space of the flag-raising, the ronderos reinscribe this nationalist act with their own meaning — as not only members of the nation but heroes of La Patria. This reinscription would also be quite literal later in the day when the ronderos from surrounding villages paraded with the Peruvian flag reworked so that the figure of a rondero with his rifle and hat replaced the national shield that normally appears amidst the field of white.

I emphasize that this is “a people” recreating themselves via narratives. In this glorious history, what is remembered is complemented by what is forgotten. Nowhere in this lengthy chronicle is mention made of this population’s servitude on the haciendas that existed throughout the region until a mere 30 years ago. Clearly, forgetting can consist of remembering something else — of replacing a history of humiliating and racist treatment at the hands of the hacendados with another history that erases this ethnic stigma.

Indeed, central to this erasure is a process of ethnogenesis in the highlands. Among the profound political shifts of the past two decades has been a move from “ethnic administration” by the hacendados to the elaboration of a new and amorphous ethnic identity as “Altoandinos.” This term was first used by NGOs in 1993 to refer to their geographical scope of work; however, as villagers began organizing to return and reconstruct their villages, they began using the term as a regional identity marker, insisting that “We are no longer chutos — we’re Altoandinos.” Thus in a mere seven years, a new ethnic identity has been created out of the random categories developed by the NGOs, who frequently overlook the intricate reworkings of technocratic labels by their “beneficiaries,” and the subsequent emergence of new subjectivities (Escobar 1995). Indeed, local leaders have recently begun organizing and petitioning to have their highland communities recognized as the Provincia Altoandina.

However, I want to return to that Sunday in the village and the flags so proudly reworked. If indeed there were no women in the assembly, this does not mean they do not imagine a nation. For example, that same day I sat and spoke with mama Victoria, who asked me if I happened to have a flag that she could fly from her house. As she told me, “If I don’t fly the flag they can say I’m a terrorist and make me pay a fine.” She told me that each year they fly flags from the house for Fiestas Patrias; however, in her youth they never flew a single flag. As Victoria explained, “Ever since the violence began and the soldiers arrived, we’ve begun to know the Peruvian flag.” If indeed the highlands were once “una zona olvidada” (a forgotten zone), the violence has resulted in a state presence in formerly remote villages, and soldiers were the initial means by which the state was made present.

Again, this campesino nationalism is disjunctive, contradictory and is imagined differently according to the social location of the actor and, as I have suggested, according to the audience. Not only is there an NGO sponsoring a competition for “the best” war stories, but there are also other external agents who arrive in search of some meaning of the past, prompting the reelaboration and recounting of these memories. For example, there are anthropologists who arrive with questions focused on the civil defense patrols and political violence. In the first case we hear epic tales of armed bravery, and in the second we conduct an ethnography of violence rather than a study of human life in all of its complexity. It is important to note the intersubjectivity of memory — both the narrator and his or her audience contour the remembrances.

However, if indeed these narrative structures are manipulated by memory, they have direct effects on political practices and access to public space. As I have discussed, the ideology of masculine heroism is inscribed in spatial practices that effectively marginalize women. The symbolic practice of raising the national flag every Sunday as the ronderos stand at attention — this practice by which men affirm a sense of belonging to the state and perform the militarized nationalism forged during the war — is a masculinist spatial practice where women are, quite literally, relegated to the margins.

My goal is not to deny the importance of the rondas campesinas in redefining the course of the war and providing a political apprenticeship for villagers as historical actors and subjects with rights. Rather, I note the unequal seizing of a sense of belonging to the state and of national integration. These masculinist war narratives do not only reach an external audience, but are told and retold within the villages themselves. Thus they produce their effects of truth and power.

Thus I want to invert the focus of Anderson (1993) and Hobsbawm and Ranger (1987) who take elites as the principal authors of the imagined communities of the nation and the invention of traditions. In contrast, it is suggestive to follow the line of inquiry set out by Joseph and Nugent (1994), Manrique (1981) and Mallon (1994), who explore campesino nationalisms and daily forms of state formation. I turn next to this set of concerns.

Citizenship and New Political Practices

Kimberly: “Why do they raise the flag each Sunday?”
Victor: “So that if there are terrorists in the hills, they’ll know that Peruvians live here.”
Kimberly: “Victor, why are there no women in the flag raising?”
Victor: “Women don’t participate.”
Kimberly: “Why is that?”
Victor: “Women are less Peruvian, they aren’t armed.”
— Victor, 11 years, Carhuahurán
If indeed the war has formed a central theme in the history of these villages, a review of the Actas Comunales of Balcón, Carhuapampa and Carhuahurán reveal findings that surprised me. Even in the peak war years, these communal documents indicate there were ongoing assemblies addressing “el progreso del pueblo” (the progress of the village). In the relative calm between attacks, villagers continued to plan for and work towards the development of their villages, whether by petitioning support for the construction of roads, health centers, schools, or even districtalization in the case of Carhuahurán. These Actas Comunales are not archives that merely testify to the horror of war, but are witness to a developmentalist posture steadfastly geared toward the future.

In this unlikely pairing of war and progress, the same logic repeats: women are seen as less protagonistic. In her suggestive work, De la Cadena (1987) analyzes the themes of gender and ethnicity in the Cuzqueño case, suggesting that because women speak less Spanish and have less urban experience, they are considered “more Indian.” That is, gender, race and ethnicity are axes of differentiation which function in a multiplicative manner, prejudicing the women who find themselves at the crossroads of these forms of categorizing people and constructing hierarchies based upon those categories[16].

In the Ayacuchan case, the construction of women as “more Indian” — or “less developed” — is expressed by Victor who considers them “less Peruvian.” This categorization makes an implicit tie between the model of citizenship that emerged during the years of political violence and the image of women subordinated to militarized patriarchy. This is a tie that has intergenerational implications, as children incorporate these masculinist values as the central requirements for the construction of citizenship. I suggest this provides an example of the armed and masculinist citizenship that Elshtain has called “armed civic virtue”; that is, the fusion of ideas of citizenship with the concept of the good (male) warrior (Elshtain 1987).

This model of militarized citizenship corresponds not only to the ronderos’ desire to maintain their power within their communities, but also constitutes a form of symbolic capital that permits these men to negotiate their entree into the “modern world.” In the process of collecting testimonies, various ronderos insisted their war stories had value in the marketplace. Indeed, several men insisted I was taping their tales of heroism to sell to international radio stations for extravagant sums of money. It is significant that they thought in terms of market value only when they narrated their participation in the armed struggle against Sendero. It seems that the only form of capital they possess in the global capitalist market is that which they can narrate.

If indeed women are relegated to the margins of this “mercado de valor” (marketplace of value/courage), this does not mean they never cross those margins. In fact, they have also had a political apprenticeship due to their own struggles. For example, President Modesta, speaking about the abuses committed by the Sinchis (government counterinsurgency troops) during the early years of the war, told me: “At that time we didn’t have our experience. If it had been like it is now, oh where we would have gone — to the judges, to human rights groups — we would have gone anywhere. But it is only recently that we have our capacities. At that time were just like little children, without any sense at all.”

But not only the women who have become village authorities comment on the changes of these years. Rather, the sense of having lived through “accelerated time” is generalizable. These changes are even more notable for those villagers who were internally displaced to the cities. For example, there is Teodora, a 26 year old women from Macabamba, a “comunidad retornante” (returning community). Although she is quite young, in her interview she sounds like an elderly grandmother recounting tales from some distant past:

“In my time, parents didn’t permit their girls to go to school. ‘If you want to go, these take your animals with you,’ that’s what they always said. Before and even now, girls work more in the family, washing clothes, cooking, caring for animals, gathering wood. Before it was even worse because people thought life was going to stay the same. But that’s not how it is. After, we realized this and realized that today and in the future, life is for “los que tienen ojos” (those who have eyes/vision/education). This difference came after “los accidentes” (the war). For this, now both girls and boys study, they even finish primary school. Now they have us as examples of ignorance — of how they should not be.”
It appears as though the abrupt changes of the war have resulted in an opening regarding women’s’ roles within their communities. One would hope the narratives would reflect this opening rather than slam it shut.

It seems appropriate to conclude thinking in terms of hegemony, both in relation to memory as well as to gender. Hegemony is always partial, requiring its maintenance in the face of counterhegemonic challenges. As Ortner suggests, one must be attentive to the contradictions and multiplicity of logics operating in any given society; in fact, she suggests it is fruitful to analyze these contradictions in terms of social transformation: “There is an ordering — a hegemony in the sense of a relative domination of some meanings and practices over others. It is both this ordering and its potential disordering that interest me” (Ortner 1990:46). The importance of listening to and recording multiple versions of the war is precisely to “disarm the subject” that forms the model of emergent citizenship in these villages.

Obviously the idea is not to replace one monolithic narrative with another that is equally univocal. I am reminded of first wave North American feminist theory. Writing within the theoretical frameworks of Marxist historical materialism, Weberian sociology and Freudian psychoanalysis, this wave of academic feminism sought to replace Grand (androcentric) Theory with a feminist “Meta-corrective.” The Problem: Male domination. The solution: Feminist theory. Both in the singular.

Rather, I strive to preserve the polyphony of historical voices — to deconstruct “the subaltern” to examine its multiple fragments and complex totality, articulating both with relations of power at the local, regional and national level. It is my hope that if one can disaggregate rights to citizenship from the symbol of the armed rondero, perhaps it will be possible to develop a deeper democracy that permits all members of these communities — todos y todas — to benefit from a new sense of being full members of the national community.


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[*] Center for Latin American Studies, Bolívar House, 582 Alvarado Row, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305. ktheidon@AOL.com
[1] For example, see Degregori, Carlos Ivan et al., 1996.
[2] Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path) is the Maoist inspired guerrilla group that began its armed effort to overthrow the Peruvian state in 1980. The rondas campesinas are the armed peasant patrols that exist in rural villages.
[3] Ortner (1995) makes a similar and eloquent argument regarding “ethnographic refusal,” comprised of sanitizing politics, thinning culture and dissolving actors, which leads to the romanticized study of the subaltern and resistance.
[4] My research was made possible by grants from the Social Science Research Council and American Council of Learned Societies, the Wenner Gren Foundation, the Inter-American Foundation, and the Human Rights Center at the University of California at Berkeley. I am also grateful for writing time made possible by the Institute on Violence, Culture and Survival at the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, the Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford University, and the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation. I am deeply appreciative for both the financial support and the collegial relationships I have enjoyed with representatives of each of the above institutions. For keen conversations regarding the themes addressed in this paper, I thank José Coronel, Ponciano del Pino, Kathleen Dill, Carol Gluck, Elizabeth Jelin, Ron Kassimir, Pablo Efraín Loayza, Carlo Nasi, Barry O’Neill, Madelene Pariona Oncebay, and Victoria Sanford. Finally, I thank an anonymous reader for very helpful comments.
[5] Quoted in Del Pino 1992.
[6] The north of Ayacucho includes the provinces of Huamanga, Huanta y LaMar. It is not my intention to examine the reasons that lead to the mobilization of the campesina population against SL, but rather to explore the implications of the war in terms of power relations and gender roles in rural Ayacucho. For a more thorough analysis of the process of violence and the history of the rondas campesinas in Ayacucho, see Degregori et al., 1996.
[7] For a discussion of the trajectory of the rondas campesinas in northern Peru, see Starn 1999 and Huber 1995.
[8] I thank Ponciano Del Pino for sharing the documents from Tambo.
[9] It is also significant that the presence of the soldiers gave rise to prostitution, making sex a marketable commodity within these villages. I address this more fully in my dissertation, Traumatic States: Violence and Reconciliation in Peru.
[10] “The Tigers” is the name given to the special self-defense commandos, a civil organization that operated on a full-time basis with a monthly salary paid by the community. This commando was composed of young men between the ages of 15 and 33, who are those with the most fighting experience.
[11] I thank Ponciano Del Pino for conversations regarding this term.
[12] This interview was conducted in Pampay in 1995.
[13] See Degregori and Rivera 1993; Tapia 1997.
[14] Alberto Fujimori was president of Peru from 1990-2000, and he based much of his credibility and power on his defeat of Sendero Luminoso. He has since been driven out of office due to charges of electoral fraud, corruption, and crimes against humanity.
[15] See Silverstein (2000) for a discussion of Anderson’s erroneous assumptions regarding language standardization and national integration.
[16] For similar arguments regarding ethnicity, gender and nation-building in Guatemala, see Nelson 1999.

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