Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Unthinkable Rebellion and the Praxis of the Possible: Ch'orti' Campesina/o Struggles in Guatemala's Eastern Highlands
by Casolo, Jennifer Jean, Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley, 2011, 314; 3526544
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation examines the production of rural struggle in Guatemala' indigenous eastern highlands, a place where after decades of silence, 36 years of civil war and two centuries of marginalization, the seemingly unthinkable—organized resistance and alternative proposals—became palpable. In the face of crisis, attempts to turn rural producers, into neoliberal subjects of credit resurrected the historical specter of dispossession and catalyzed an unlikely alliance to oppose unjust agrarian debt that transformed into a vibrant movement for defense of Maya-Ch'orti' territory. Yet, the contours of that alliance, its limits, and possibilities, its concrete splits and expansion are deeply linked to both place-based histories and memories of racialized dispossession, specific reworkings of 1990s discourses and practices of development and "peace"-making, and the concrete practice of starting from "common sense".

I sieve a total of 26 months of participant-action research that spanned over four years with this nascent organization through a Lefebvrian method of rereading the past through the light of the present. Through this spatially and historically relational analysis based on critical ethnographic practice, I present an analysis where the present speaks powerfully to the past making three fundamental contributions.

First, I produce an analytic that challenges narratives of spontaneous rebellion and/or seamless neoliberal development, demonstrating concretely how neither adequately address the relationship between racialized dispossession and ongoing rural efforts of repossession and or maintaining possession. Instead I draw attention to how the limits of neoliberal projects shape the contours of rebellion and spontaneous rebellions limit the aims of neoliberal projects: yet how these processes of entailment unfold hinges on particular articulations of past processes of dis/possession, development and difference.

Second, I offer a rereading of the Guatemalan Civil War that hinges on rethinking the connections between the so-called ladino military East and indigenous militant West. In so doing I make break down divisive binaries that pervade Guatemalan common sense and offer a new understanding of Guatemala's 1980-83 racial genocide and creating openings for future alliances based not necessarily on an abstract sense of defense of territory or pan-Mayan identity, but in recognition of shared experiences and analyses of indigenous repression and resistance.

Third, I show how particular articulations of race, class, gender and space are worked and reworked in and through the concrete practices of struggle and acquiescence, reaccommodation and flight that are shaped by the historical production of place. Rebellion past or present is neither unthinkable nor inevitable. And its potential for social change is bound to ongoing praxis.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Hart, Gillian P.
Commitee: Fortmann, Louise, Hart, Gillian P., Lave, Jean
School: University of California, Berkeley
Department: Geography
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-A 74/01(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Geography, Latin American Studies, Native American studies
Keywords: Campesina/o, Development, Gender, Guatemala, Indigeneity, Land, Rural struggles
Publication Number: 3526544
ISBN: 978-1-267-60420-0
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