by Linda Green
Michael Kearney’s and Rodolfo Stavenhagen’s combined works have had an enormous influence on my own thinking and anthropological practice. While in graduate school in the mid-1980s I had the opportunity to meet and talk with each of them before embarking on my fieldwork with rural Mayan widows in the end stages of the more overt and brutal forms of political violence in Guatemala. The resonance of their work speaks not only to the power of their conceptual insights, of which there are many, but also to the power of capitalist relations to orchestrate how marginalized people live and die.
Stavenhagen’s and Kearney’s work on Latin America embodies a constellation of theoretical concerns about the ways in which processes of capitalist accumulation and fields of power produce inequalities manifested through relations of gender, race, class, and sexuality. It has importantly documented the multiple and often contradictory ways in which ordinary people respond to their problems in the present—loss of land and livelihoods and their vital connections with each other. Moreover, it has interrogated strands of the past to show the mediated range of options available to rural peoples, among them internal differentiation, social mobilization, rural-to-urban migration, and, more recently, transnational border crossings. The entire panoply of violence—structural, political, symbolic, everyday —is integral to this deployment of power.
It is to this constellation of issues that I turn here, suggesting that a matrix of violence may allow us not only to capture more fully the social and economic dimensions of capitalist relations (what Gavin Smith calls “historical realism”) but also to interrogate hegemony in the Gramscian sense, not only in terms of its making social phenomena appear natural but in terms of its uncovering “how power blocs attain and retain hegemonic leadership” (Smith, 1999). Impunity—not only in its juridical sense but also …
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Latin American Perspectives
July 2015 vol. 42 no. 4 103-107