Rigoberta Menchú and the Story of All Poor Guatemalans / Edition 2

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Rigoberta Menchú is a living legend, a young woman who said that her odyssey from a Mayan Indian village to revolutionary exile was “the story of all poor Guatemalans.” By turning herself into an everywoman, she became a powerful symbol for 500 years of indigenous resistance to colonialism. Her testimony, I, Rigoberta Menchú, denounced atrocities by the Guatemalan army and propelled her to the 1992 Nobel Peace Prize. But her story was not the eyewitness account that she claimed. In this hotly debated book, key points of which have been corroborated by the New York Times, David Stoll compares a cult text with local testimony from Rigoberta Menchú’s hometown. His reconstruction of her story goes to the heart of debates over political correctness and identity politics and provides a dramatic illustration of the rebirth of the sacred in the postmodern academy.This expanded edition includes a new foreword from Elizabeth Burgos, the editor of I, Rigoberta Menchú, as well as a new afterword from Stoll, who discusses Rigoberta Menchú’s recent bid for the Guatemalan presidency and addresses the many controversies and debates that have arisen since the book was first published.
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Editorial Reviews

New York Times
In the autobiography I, Rigoberta Menchú, Mrs. Menchu, now 39, tells a wrenching tale of violence, destruction, misery and exploitation as moving as a Victor Hugo novel. Key details of that story, though, are untrue, according to [Stoll].
Library Journal
Rigoberta Mench 's autobiography, I, Rigoberta Mench (LJ 11/1/84), told the story of a Guatemalan Indian family who suffered horrific oppression from the Guatemalan military and elite. That book and Mench 's subsequent activities propelled her into international prominence in the fight for the rights of the poor and oppressed. Mench became a symbol for the Left throughout the world and subsequently received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1992. Based on ten years of research by Stoll, a somewhat controversial scholar and professor of anthropology at Middlebury College, this book questions the veracity of Mench 's autobiography, specifically aspects of her family background, her childhood, land questions, and violent acts against her family. This volume will be important for Stoll's analysis of how the academic and political Left functions and uses symbols to idealize victims of oppression. A landmark publication that most academic and large public libraries should acquire.--Mark L. Grover, Brigham Young Univ. Lib., Provo, UT
Mench<'u>'s tale of her odyssey from being orphaned by death squads to political exile propelled her to the 1992 Nobel Peace Prize. Since the end of the civil war, her story has been questioned. Stoll (anthropology, Middlebury College) assembles the evidence and finds the story important in the fight for human rights and multiculturalism, but not the eyewitness account she claimed. He warns that focusing on images of victims can lead to more victims. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Richard Gott
Stoll's campaign against myth, benevolent though he would wish it to be, is also a force for political demobilization and stasis.....Anthropologists and guerillas notwithstanding, life goes on.
London Review of Books
Charles Lane
I, Rigoberta Menchu is not, alas, a true story....[as] David Stoll shows in his riveting and masterfully researched book....After Stoll's book, we have a pretty good idea of why [she] lied....much of the book is true -- and much more of it was at least plausible...
The New Republic
The New York Times
In the autobiography I, Rigoberta Menchú, Mrs. Menchu, now 39, tells a wrenching tale of violence, destruction, misery and exploitation as moving as a Victor Hugo novel. Key details of that story, though, are untrue, according to [Stoll].
Tim Golden
If not a phony, [Stoll] contends, [Menchu] is the author of an elaborate personal myth, one in which she embroidered liberally on some experiences, fabricated others and hid still others from public view....Stoll asserts that the fictions of Menchu's memoir are in fact threads of a bigger lie: that the rebel uprising of the late 1970s and early 1980s enjoyed wide support among the Mayan peasantry.
The New York Times Book Review
Joanne Omang
Stoll's important and painstaking work goes well beyond the particular's of Guatemala's monstrous history and Mench?'s honest suffering to address broader issues - the role of created moral authority, the value of armed revolt the validity of cross-cultural inquiry, the mysterious power of what he calls poetic truth.
Washington Post
Kirkus Reviews
An anthropologist's (Middlebury College) critical re-examination of the phenomenon of Rigoberta Menchú, the Guatemalan peasant awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1992. I, Rigoberta Mench&uactue;, her 1983 memoir, achieved international acclaim; it helped focus worldwide attention on the oppressive actions of the right-wing Guatemalan government and on the plight of the peasants, who were forced to join guerrilla movements to protect their lives and property. Both the book and Rigoberta became powerful symbols of the struggle of indigenous peoples against repressive anti-leftist regimes. While remaining sympathetic to Rigoberta's general message and to the plight of the Guatemalan peasants, Stoll's book attempts to unveil the manner in which the elevation of Menchú's book to the status of myth does violence to the complexities of historical reality. Using tesitmony of local residents and archival sources, in seeking to discover what has been filtered out of Rigoberta's heavily ideological account of recent Guatemalan history, Stoll focuses on what he reads as a discrepancy between the revolutionary fervor of the guerrillas and the voices of ordinary Guatemalan peasants. He characterizes the average peasant response to events as feeling "caught between two armies"—a far cry from the awakening into revolutionary consciousness described by Rigoberta in her book. Stoll employs possible inaccuracies within Rigoberta's text to destabilize the unity of her version of events. In particular, he questions her account on two historical points: "Was the guerrilla movement defeated in the early 1980s a popular struggle expressing the deepest aspirations of Rigoberta'speople? Was it an inevitable reaction to grinding oppression by people who felt they had no other choice?" Stoll's book is not an attempt to debunk Rigoberta's story, but to serve as a warning that elevating one version of history to cult status inevitably silences a multitude of others.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780813343969
  • Publisher: Westview Press
  • Publication date: 12/24/2007
  • Edition description: REV
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 384
  • Sales rank: 1,300,973
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.80 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

David Stoll teaches anthropology at Middlebury College. His other books include Is Latin America Turning Protestant? and Between Two Armies in the Ixil Towns of Guatemala.
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Table of Contents

1 The Story of All Poor Guatemalans 1
Pt. 1 Vicente Menchu and His Village
2 Uspantan as an Agricultural Frontier 15
3 The Struggle for Chimel 29
Pt. 2 Popular Revolutionary War
4 Revolutionary Justice Comes to Uspantan 43
5 The Death of Petrocinio 63
6 The Massacre at the Spanish Embassy 71
7 Vicente Menchu and the Committee for Campesino Unity 89
8 Vicente Menchu and the Guerrilla Army of the Poor 107
9 The Death of Juana Tum and the Destruction of Chimel 125
10 The Death Squads in Uspantan 141
Pt. 3 Vicente's Daughter and the Reinvention of Chimel
11 Where Was Rigoberta? 159
12 Rigoberta Joins the Revolutionary Movement 167
13 The Construction of I, Rigoberta Menchu 177
14 Rigoberta's Secret 189
Pt. 4 The Laureate Goes Home
15 The Campaign for the Nobel 203
16 The Lonely Life of a Nobel Laureate 219
17 Rigoberta and Redemption 231
18 The New Chimel 249
19 Rigoberta Leaves the Guerrilla Movement 265
20 Epitaph for an Eyewitness Account 273
Notes 285
Bibliography 311
Index 323
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