"To know how to speak" : technologies of indigenous women's activism against sexual violence in Chiapas, Mexico
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Between 1994 and 2012, the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) established a contested zone of exception to neoliberal governance in southern Mexico and women's-rights-as-human-rights universalism reshaped international development and activist discourse. Within this context, Ana, Beatriz, and Celia González Pérez pressed claims against a group of Mexican Federal Army soldiers for rape at a military checkpoint in 1994. A rare instance of first-person denunciation of rape warfare, the Tseltal-Maya sisters' own powerful representation of the physical and procedural violations committed against them forms the starting point of this analysis, which proceeds from there, chapter by chapter, through communal, national, and international representations. Centering the women's speech, then moving to what are conventionally understood as broader fields of discourse produces new ways of understanding violence in relation to nation, culture, and gendered sociality. Though in 2001 the human rights commission of the Organization of American States upheld the women's claims, as of this writing (2012) the Mexican state has neither awarded reparations nor prosecuted the accused. I argue here that the women's unmet demands for collective and individual justice produce a novel language of protest which I call denuncia (denouncement) rather than testimony. Denuncia, I argue, puts the physical and the social body at the center of claims against sexual violation; enacts coraje (courage, rage) rather than petitions for recognition of truth; exposes the nationalist ideology of racial mixing that informs the production of testimony in Mexico, and establishes new audiences for its own reception despite the regimes of everyday violence it foregrounds. Formulated amid military occupation, denuncia exposes the gendered intimacy--control of the food supply, inhabitation of public-private architectural spaces, colonization of local enmities--that gave rise to military rape, which I call here "domestic violence." Denuncia emerges to refute the neoliberal discourse that links indigenous culture, gender, and violence just when the material basis of indigenous livelihood is under siege. This dissertation's method would not have been possible without almost twenty years' engagement with Tseltal and Tojolabal-Maya men and women who have formed part of the Zapatista movement. This long-range perspective has engendered a form of feminist scholarly accountability that cultivates listening to ground critique on the terrain of self-determination.