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  • Reckoning: The Ends of War in Guatemala

    Author(s): Diane  M. Nelson
    Published: 2009
    Pages: 448
    Illustrations: 32 illustrations
    Sales/Territorial Rights: World
  • Cloth: $104.95 - In Stock
    978-0-8223-4341-7
  • Paperback: $29.95 - In Stock
    978-0-8223-4324-0
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  • Pref/face. Little Did I Know xiii

    AcKNOWLEDGEmeants xxxiii

    Chapter One. Under the Sign of the Virgen de Transito 1

    Intertext One. Those who Are Transformed 31

    Chapter Two. The Postwar Milieu: Means, Ends, and Identi-ties 39

    Intertext Two. Co-memoration and Co-laboration: Screening and Screaming 73

    Chapter Three. Horror's Special Effects 86

    Intertext Three. Confidence Games 115

    Chapter Four. Indian Giver or Nobel Savage?: Rigoberta Menchu Tum's Stoll/en Past 126

    Intertext Four. Welcome to Bamboozled! A Modern-Day Minstrel Show 156

    Chapter Five. Anthropologist Discovers Legendary Two-Faced Indian 165

    Intertext Five. Look Out! Step Right Up! Paranoia and Other Entertainmeants 197

    Chapter Six. Hidden Powers, Duplicitous State/s 208

    Intertext Six. Counterscience in Colonial Laboratories 242

    Chapter Seven. Life during Wartime 252

    Intertext Seven. How Do You Get Someone to Give You Her Purse? 280

    Chapter Eight. Accounting for the Postwar, Balancing the Book/s 290

    Chapter Nine. The Ends 322

    Notes 327

    Works Cited 361

    Index 387
  • “. . . [T]his is both an interesting reflection on the dilemmas of contemporary society and our place in it and an essential exploration of the endless
    complications of Guatemala.” — Jim Handy, Hispanic American Historical Review

    Reckoning . . . is hauntingly beautiful, raising provocative questions, analytic complexities, and fascinating interconnections. It convincingly captures what it means to question assumptions, to challenge what we
    know, as it shows us some of the myriad ways that Guatemalans make sense of violence, loss, and the future.” — Jennifer Burrell, Political and Legal Anthropological Review

    “. . .Nelson has given us a challenging, rich, creative text, remarkable for the ends, and beginnings, that it generates.” — Emily Yates-Doerr, e-misférica

    “[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.” — Norman B. Schwartz, Current Anthropology

    “[A] unique, powerful vision of Guatemala today. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above.” — C. Hendrickson, Choice

    “[Nelson’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.” — Robert M. Carmack, The Americas

    Reviews

  • “. . . [T]his is both an interesting reflection on the dilemmas of contemporary society and our place in it and an essential exploration of the endless
    complications of Guatemala.” — Jim Handy, Hispanic American Historical Review

    Reckoning . . . is hauntingly beautiful, raising provocative questions, analytic complexities, and fascinating interconnections. It convincingly captures what it means to question assumptions, to challenge what we
    know, as it shows us some of the myriad ways that Guatemalans make sense of violence, loss, and the future.” — Jennifer Burrell, Political and Legal Anthropological Review

    “. . .Nelson has given us a challenging, rich, creative text, remarkable for the ends, and beginnings, that it generates.” — Emily Yates-Doerr, e-misférica

    “[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.” — Norman B. Schwartz, Current Anthropology

    “[A] unique, powerful vision of Guatemala today. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above.” — C. Hendrickson, Choice

    “[Nelson’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.” — Robert M. Carmack, The Americas

  • “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.” — Catherine A. Lutz, editor of, The Bases of Empire: The Global Struggle against U.S. Military Posts

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  • Description

    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 “to count, figure up” and “to settle rewards and punishments,” 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 “two faces.” 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 entertainment—including traditional dances, horror films, and carnivals—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 Menchú, 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 left’s fears of a clandestine para-state behind the democratic façade, to the right’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.

    About The Author(s)

    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.

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