Rigoberta Menchu And The Story Of All Poor Guatemalans

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Avalon Publishing, 1999 - Social Science - 336 pages
This book is about a living legend, a young Guatemalan orphaned by government death squads who said that her odyssey from a Mayan Indian village to revolutionary exile was “the story of all poor Guatemalans.” Published in the autobiographical I, Rigoberta Menchú, her words brought the Guatemalan army's atrocities to world attention and propelled her to the 1992 Nobel Peace Prize. Five years later, as her country's civil war ended and truth commissions prepared their reports, the Nobel laureate seemed to repudiate the life story that made her famous. “That is not my book,” she said, accusing its editor, Elisabeth Burgos, of distorting her testimony.Why the disclaimer? One reason was the anthropologist interviewing other violence survivors in her home town. In Rigoberta Menchú and The Story of All Poor Guatemalans, David Stoll uses their recollections and archival sources to establish a different portrait of the laureate's village and the violence that destroyed it. Like the imagery surrounding Ché Guevara, Rigoberta's 1982 story served the ideological needs of the urban left and kept alive the grand old vision of Latin American revolution. It shaped the assumptions of foreign human rights activists and the new multicultural orthodoxy in North American universities. But it was not the eyewitness account it purported to be, and enshrining it as the voice of the voiceless caricatured the complex feelings of Guatemalan Indians toward the guerrillas who claimed to represent them. At a time when Rigoberta's people were desperate to stop the fighting, her story became a way to mobilize foreign support for a defeated insurgency.By comparing a cult text with local testimony, Stoll raises troubling questions about the rebirth of the sacred in postmodern academe. Far from being innocent or moral, he argues, organizing scholarship around simplistic images of victimhood can be used to rationalize the creation of more victims. In challenging the accuracy of a widely-hailed account of Third World oppression, this book goes to the heart of contemporary debates over political correctness and identity politics.

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An anthropologist's (Middlebury Coll.) critical reexamination of the phenomenon of Rigoberta Mench£, the Guatemalan peasant awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1992. I, Rigoberta Mench£, her 1983 memoir ... Read full review

Rigoberta Menchú and the story of all poor Guatemalans

User Review  - Not Available - Book Verdict

Rigoberta Mench 's autobiography, I, Rigoberta Mench (LJ 11/1/84), told the story of a Guatemalan Indian family who suffered horrific oppression from the Guatemalan military and elite. That book and ... Read full review


The Story of All Poor Guatemalans
Uspantán as an Agricultural Frontier
The Struggle for Chimel

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About the author (1999)

David Stoll teaches anthropology at Middlebury College. His other books include Is Latin America Turning Protestant? and Between Two Armies in the Ixil Towns of Guatemala.

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