Peru has been forever changed by the violence that swept its countryside during a civil war that began in 1980 and slowly ground to a halt in the 1990s after claiming nearly 70,000 lives. Kimberly Theidon has been studying the legacies of the violence. The fruit of that long study is a stunning new work of scholarship. Scholars of Peru, transitional justice, post-conflict societies, and medical anthropology will find much to admire in this book and will be forced to rethink some of the dominant paradigms in these fields. Of particular interest to scholars of transitional justice will be the sections dealing with how communities that largely rejected the Shining Path allowed some former rebels to return to or join their villages if they expressed regret, submitted to physical punishment, and participated in communal institutions like the rondas campesinas (village patrol groups). Though Peru held a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, it is in the “micropolitics of reconciliation” in small communities across rural Peru that the real work of reconciliation is being done. Intimate Enemies is at times a troubling read, both for its unflinching attention to suffering and its tendency to sow doubt over established wisdoms. The disquiet it provokes is tempered by Theidon’s excellent writing, her ability to allow the voices of the people she is writing about to come through loudly and clearly, and the sense of solidarity her brand of engaged, participatory anthropology embraces.
Human Rights Review, Jan. 2014, Rebecca Root.
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