Synopses & Reviews
Following the 1996 treaty ending decades of civil war, how are Guatemalans reckoning with genocide, especially since almost everyone contributed in some way to the violence? Meaning andldquo;to count, figure upandrdquo; and andldquo;to settle rewards and punishments,andrdquo; reckoning
promises accounting and accountability. Yet as Diane M. Nelson shows, the means by which the war was waged, especially as they related to race and gender, unsettled the very premises of knowing and being. Symptomatic are the stories of duplicity pervasive in postwar Guatemala, as the left, the Mayan people, and the state were each said to have andldquo;two faces.andrdquo; Drawing on more than twenty years of research in Guatemala, Nelson explores how postwar struggles to reckon with traumatic experience illuminate the assumptions of identity more generally.
Nelson brings together stories of human rights activism, Mayan identity struggles, coerced participation in massacres, and popular entertainmentandmdash;including traditional dances, horror films, and carnivalsandmdash;with analyses of mass-grave exhumations, official apologies, and reparations. She discusses the stereotype of the Two-Faced Indian as colonial discourse revivified by anti-guerrilla counterinsurgency and by the claims of duplicity leveled against the Nobel laureate Rigoberta Menchanduacute;, and she explores how duplicity may in turn function as a survival strategy for some. Nelson examines suspicions that state power is also two-faced, from the leftandrsquo;s fears of a clandestine para-state behind the democratic faandccedil;ade, to the rightandrsquo;s conviction that NGOs threaten Guatemalan sovereignty. Her comparison of antimalaria and antisubversive campaigns suggests biopolitical ways that the state is two-faced, simultaneously giving and taking life. Reckoning is a view from the ground up of how Guatemalans are finding creative ways forward, turning ledger books, technoscience, and even gory horror movies into tools for making sense of violence, loss, and the future.
andldquo;The struggle to understand violence is a consuming task for many around the globe. Diane M. Nelson articulates stunning insights into the problem of understanding the violence in Guatemala and, by extension, our whole world of war and structural harm.andrdquo;andmdash;Catherine A. Lutz, editor of The Bases of Empire: The Global Struggle against U.S. Military Posts
andldquo;. . .Nelson has given us a challenging, rich, creative text, remarkable for the ends, and beginnings, that it generates.andrdquo;
andldquo;[A] lively, compassionate, provocative exploration of experience in postwar Guatemala. Reckoning
makes an important contribution to understanding
contemporary Guatemala and provides deep insights into the human political/social psychological condition.andrdquo;
andldquo;[Nelsonandrsquo;s] elaborate account provides detailed information on important persons, events, and diverse social units, including Maya communities, NGOs, political parties and organizations, the Guatemalan state, the United States and other foreign powers. Her account of salient events that occured during this period reveal her profound and detailed knowledge of recent history in Guatemala, and this alone makes the book invaluable for anyone interested in recent developments in that effervescent country.andrdquo;
andldquo;[A] unique, powerful vision of Guatemala today. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above.andrdquo;
An ethnographic and theoretical analysis of the complexity of identity in post-war Guatemala through a dynamic examination of the state, the Rigoberta Menchú scandal, carnival side-show exhibits, and the popularity of violent horror films.
An examination of how Guatemalans are reckoning with the aftermath of a civil war that left fundamental assumptions about selves and others in tatters when it officially ended in 1996.
About the Author
Diane M. Nelson is Associate Professor of Cultural Anthropology at Duke University. She is the author of A Finger in the Wound: Body Politics in Quincentennial Guatemala.