Everyday Revolutionaries: Gender, Violence and Disillusionment in Postwar El Salvador

Everyday Revolutionaries: Gender, Violence and Disillusionment in Postwar El Salvador

Everyday Revolutionaries: Gender, Violence and Disillusionment in Postwar El Salvador

Everyday Revolutionaries: Gender, Violence and Disillusionment in Postwar El Salvador


Everyday Revolutionaries provides a longitudinal and rigorous analysis of the legacies of war in a community racked by political violence. By exploring political processes in one of El Salvador's former war zones-a region known for its peasant revolutionary participation-Irina Carlota Silber offers a searing portrait of the entangled aftermaths of confrontation and displacement, aftermaths that have produced continued deception and marginalization.

Silber provides one of the first rubrics for understanding and contextualizing postwar disillusionment, drawing on her ethnographic fieldwork and research on immigration to the United States by former insurgents. With an eye for gendered experiences, she unmasks how community members are asked, contradictorily and in different contexts, to relinquish their identities as "revolutionaries" and to develop a new sense of themselves as productive yet marginal postwar citizens via the same "participation" that fueled their revolutionary action. Beautifully written and offering rich stories of hope and despair, Everyday Revolutionaries contributes to important debates in public anthropology and the ethics of engaged research practices.


Country, El Salvador; Department, Chalatenango; Municipality,
Las Vueltas; Community, El Rancho; Year, 1997

From late afternoon until evening on most days, a group of men kneel, squat, and sit as they play cards and gamble a bit of their money in front of a family-run store (tienda) which also serves as a bus stop. Some smoke Salvadoran cigarettes, some drink community-produced grain alcohol, and there is a lot of talk amidst the thumping of the cards onto the cement floor. Their mothers, sisters, and wives are home finishing up the day’s labors, after which they, too, visit neighbors, chat and gossip at other nearby tiendas, or watch Mexican soap operas on tv. These are gender-divided evening spaces of community life, and conversations are topically varied across these spaces.

One afternoon, before the card game, I waited for a local bus to take me to the capital city of Chalatenango, a trip that, depending on the condition of the road and the condition of the bus, takes between forty and sixty minutes. As I waited, Aquilino, a thirty-five-year-old former guerilla troop leader and presentday mayoral council member also waited, but for the card game to begin. After we exchanged formulaic greetings he asked me exactly what it was that I was doing spending so much time in a former war zone in the municipality of Las Vueltas, a municipality controlled by guerilla forces during the Salvadoran Civil War (1980–1992) and a municipality attacked by the Salvadoran government’s military forces. With three research trips under my belt and a solid ten months of fieldwork underway, I responded with what I thought was a cogent sound-bite of my project on El Salvador’s ongoing postwar reconstruction and efforts at national reconciliation after a bloody civil war between insurgents and the government that had claimed the lives of seventy-five thousand people, “disappeared” another seven thousand Salvadorans, and displaced five hundred . . .

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