This book is about a living legend, a young Guatemalan orphaned by government death squads who said that her odyssey from a Mayan Indian village to revolutionary exile was “the story of all poor Guatemalans.” Published in the autobiographical I, Rigoberta Menchú, her words brought the Guatemalan army's atrocities to world attention and propelled her to the 1992 Nobel Peace Prize. Five years later, as her country's civil war ended and truth commissions prepared their reports, the Nobel laureate seemed to repudiate the life story that made her famous. “That is not my book,” she said, accusing its editor, Elisabeth Burgos, of distorting her testimony.Why the disclaimer? One reason was the anthropologist interviewing other violence survivors in her home town. In Rigoberta Menchú and The Story of All Poor Guatemalans, David Stoll uses their recollections and archival sources to establish a different portrait of the laureate's village and the violence that destroyed it. Like the imagery surrounding Ché Guevara, Rigoberta's 1982 story served the ideological needs of the urban left and kept alive the grand old vision of Latin American revolution. It shaped the assumptions of foreign human rights activists and the new multicultural orthodoxy in North American universities. But it was not the eyewitness account it purported to be, and enshrining it as the voice of the voiceless caricatured the complex feelings of Guatemalan Indians toward the guerrillas who claimed to represent them. At a time when Rigoberta's people were desperate to stop the fighting, her story became a way to mobilize foreign support for a defeated insurgency.By comparing a cult text with local testimony, Stoll raises troubling questions about the rebirth of the sacred in postmodern academe. Far from being innocent or moral, he argues, organizing scholarship around simplistic images of victimhood can be used to rationalize the creation of more victims. In challenging the accuracy of a widely-hailed account of Third World oppression, this book goes to the heart of contemporary debates over political correctness and identity politics.
|Publisher:||Taylor & Francis|
|Edition description:||Older Edition|
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.81(d)|
About 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.
What People are Saying About This
More than an expose or refutation, Stoll's account presents an increasingly complex -- and I think ultimately sympathetic -- portrait of an exceptional, eloquent individual caught up in personal and historical tragedies doing her best to maintain her integrity. The strength of this book lies not in its refutation of Rigoberta Menchu's story but in its inquiry into what the instant worldwide appeal of her autobiography tells us about how we choose to understand recent Guatemalan history, Guatemalan society, and more generally, revolutionary struggle and authenticity in the voice of others.
The rule of all sociological studies should be a simple one: no icons. Not Karl Marx; not Max Weber (sigh); not Michel Foucault; not anyone. Rigoberta Menchu should not be an exception. This book is going to explode over Guatemalan and Latin American Studies.