Violent memories : Quiché war widows in northwest highland Guatemala
This local study of the impact of political violence on a Maya Indian village is based on twenty months intensive fieldwork. It examines the processes of fragmentation and realignment in a community undergoing rapid and violent change. The thesis relates local, social, cultural and psychological phenomena to the impact of the contemporary "dirty war" on widows' lives. Victims are mostly civilians caught between guerrilla and government forces. Violence is treated not as a socio-culturally fragmented phenomenon occurring "outside" everyday life, but as part and parcel of victims' lives. The thesis combines a narrative, life-history approach with anthropological analysis, emphasizing the ways locals talk about and explain the violence. The cultural articulation of conflict and the expression of anxiety in cultural performance are examined. I explore the mechanisms and effects of continuing terror and repression, silenced and disguised at the local level. The survival strategies of widows and their attempts to reconstruct their lives on a physical level and in terms of meaning are examined. I privilege the unofficial oral testimony of Indian women. Memories are presented in narratives which not only reflect the narrator's perception but actively reconstitute their reality. "Re-membering" is not simply the automatic engagement of the past within the present but a process of self empowerment. Widows discover new possibilities in terms of potential for action and their position in society, though attempts at resistant actions are limited by the risks of further danger.