Genocide and Millennialism in Upper Peru: The Great Rebellion of 1780-1782

Genocide and Millennialism in Upper Peru: The Great Rebellion of 1780-1782

Genocide and Millennialism in Upper Peru: The Great Rebellion of 1780-1782

Genocide and Millennialism in Upper Peru: The Great Rebellion of 1780-1782

Synopsis

Exploring one of the least-studied genocides in post-conquest South America, Robins calls into question many of the central assumptions currently held by genocide scholars. Victims of genocide usually lack the organization and weaponry to effectively battle their enemies. During the Great Rebellion the Indian revolutionaries faced the better-organized and armed loyalist army. Where as genocidal policies are usually characterized by centralized leadership, the 1780-1782 Great Rebellion in Peru and Upper Peru (now Bolivia) was highly fragmented and confederational in nature, thus undercutting the widely-held assumption that only the State is capable of committing genocide. The Rebellion is one of the rare cases when the intended victims of genocide emerged victorious.

Excerpt

The present work focuses on the 1780–1782 Great Rebellion in Upper Peru (present-day Bolivia), which Nicholas A. Robins characterizes as “genocidal and millennial.” While I cannot judge the historical scholarship of the case materials provided by Dr. Robins beyond registering the orderly and systematic way in which he provides material, and the interesting style of writing he achieves while being properly academic, I can react to some implications of his work for the theory of Holocaust and genocide studies.

The case Dr. Robins brings shows that the native peoples who were the underdogs, themselves notable victims of genocide, were in certain instances the perpetrators of genocide. Almost without exception, writing about genocide and native peoples has understandably focused on genocide by colonizers against the native peoples. Without in any way minimizing the significance of the common cases of genocide by the colonizers, Dr. Robins notes that “there are also cases in which Indians were the perpetrators,” and he makes the important observation that this dimension of human history is often obscured. There is also the further point that “genocidal policies are usually characterized by a centralized leadership structure,” but in this case the leadership of the rebelling genociders was de-centralized, “highly fragmented and confederational in nature.” in addition, “another unusual characteristic of the rebellion is that it is one of the rare cases where the victims of genocide become the victors.”

Altogether, Dr. Robins observes that the above findings touch on an oft-neglected aspect of denials of genocide by the prejudices of the liberal mind, which likes to cast genocide inevitably in black and white terms

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