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The power of violence in war and peace: Post Cold-War lessons from El Salvador
  • Philippe Bourgois, University of California, San Francisco

The Cold War sanitized the author’s analysis of political violence among revolutionary peasants in El Salvador during the 1980s. A 20 year retrospective analysis of his fieldwork documents the ways political terror and repression become embedded in daily interactions that normalize interpersonal brutality in a dynamic of everyday violence. Furthermore, the structural, symbolic and interpersonal violence that accompanies both revolutionary mobilization and also labor migration to the U.S. inner city follows gendered fault lines. The snares of symbolic violence in counterinsurgency war spawn mutual recrimination and shame, obfuscating the role of an oppressive power structure. Similarly, everyday violence in a neo-liberal version of peacetime facilitates the administration of the subordination of the poor who blame themselves for character failings. Ethnography’s challenge is to elucidate the causal chains and gendered linkages in the continuum of violence that buttresses inequality in the post-Cold War era.

  • El Salvador,
  • peasants,
  • Cold War,
  • counterinsurgency warfare,
  • structural violence,
  • symbolic violence,
  • gender,
  • FMLN guerillas,
  • U.S. inner city
Publication Date
January 1, 2001
Copyright 2001 Sage Publications.
Citation Information
Philippe Bourgois. "The power of violence in war and peace: Post Cold-War lessons from El Salvador" (2001)
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