Violent Memories: Mayan War Widows in Guatemala

Synopsis

This local study of the impact of political violence on a Maya Indian village is based on intensive fieldwork in the department of El Quiche, Guatemala, during 1988-1990. It examines the processes of fragmentation & realignment in a community undergoing rapid & violent change & relates local, social, cultural, & psychological phenomena to the impact of the war on widows' lives. Zur combines a narrative, life-history approach with anthropological analysis, emphasizing the way people talk about & explain the violence. She describes the survival strategies of widows & their attempts to reconstruct their lives, both on a physical level & in terms of meaning, & finds that "remembering" is not simply the automatic engagement of the past within the present, but a process that allows widows to discover new possibilities for action & for reshaping their own positions in society.

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