Secrecy, subjectivity and sociality : an ethnography of conflict in Peten Guatemala (1999-2000)
The thesis explores the relations between histories of violence and cultures of secrecy in Peten, northern Guatemalan in the aftermath of the Peace Accords signed in 1996 by the Guatemalan government and guerrilla insurgents. Informed by ethnographic research among displaced constituencies with experiences of militancy in the guerrilla organisation Rebel Armed Forces, the thesis traces the contours of dispersed and intermittent guerrilla social relations. It explores histories of governmentality in Peten and their relations to state-sponsored violence, insurgency and repression; the incitement and replication of ambivalence in social relations; the production of socialities and subjectivities marked by secrecy; guerrilla ethics and aesthetics of sociality established through generation and circulation of substance; phenomenologies of guerrilla prosthetic embodiment and subjectivity. Violence and conflict are shown to be deeply implicated in guerrilla secret socialities and subjectivities. In turn, the social and cultural field appears as a site of everincreasing partiality. In an effort to apprehend and represent the shifts in perspective thus engendered, the thesis asks what presuppositions make partial subjectivities and socialities amenable to experience, reflection and representation. Through anthropological knowledge practices, social and cultural realms appear plural, complex and relative. However, when anthropology is located within the history of Western metaphysics, it is clear that traditions of anthropological enquiry have imagined partiality to be the culturally specific manifestation of a universal human condition, cognitive structure or interpretative capacity. Since Nietzsche and Heidegger, progressive weakening of Western metaphysics and erosion of the foundations of thought have made these presuppositions problematic. Further, they have engendered the conditions of possibility for anthropology to move beyond the enumeration of potentially infinite partial perspectives grounded in strong universalist assumptions. Anthropology that accepts the weakening of Western metaphysics imagined as the advancement of nihilism may apprehend and represent constant shifts of partial perspectives in anti-foundational terms, thus also realising its nihilist vocation.