Q’eqchi’ being and being a Víctima Q’eqchi’ : citizenship, victimhood, and personhood as sites of discipline and resistance in Guatemalan reparations politics

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2014-12

Authors

Teague, Heather Kathleen

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Abstract

Through the activities of the National Reparations Program of Guatemala, a political economy of victimhood is created in which victim-survivors must perform their memories and personhood in particular ways in order to gain recognition from the State. I evaluate Q’eqchi’ victim-survivors’ experiences of the limits of this process from the perspective of Q’eqchi’ economic morality in a context of ongoing violence and limited structural change. I examine the long struggle to establish the National Reparations Program [Programa Nacional de Resarcimiento, PNR], and how victim-survivors from the Polochic Valley experienced and acted in that struggle. I thereby contextualize the Polochic victim-survivors’ involvement with reparations within local, departmental, and national political processes. This enables me to demonstrate how the struggle produces a certain kind of victim by inducing extreme and steady anxiety. Then, through an analysis of case studies of Q’eqchi’ Maya experiences in the two-part application process of proving identity and giving testimony, I demonstrate that the reparations application process is a performative textual and affective technology through which the post-conflict Guatemalan State works to reconstitute the indigenous person into a liberal citizen reconciled to ladino models of personhood, identity, and subjectivity, thereby further solidifying neoliberal multi-cultural social relations based on institutionalized differential access to resources as well as degree of suffering. I conclude that despite good efforts on the part of the Panzós PNR staff, the reparations process still has not been able to fully recognize Q’eqchi’ persons or their agency. It will not serve a truly reconciliatory function until there is a mechanism through which perpetrators also are identified and prosecuted and there is real structural change that addresses the severe structural inequalities in the country. In the epilogue I compare a recent series of violent evictions with the violence the victim-survivors experienced during the Internal Armed Conflict through a frame of President Colom’s political rhetoric and action. In this way I look at how the state continues to perpetrate violence at the same time it distributes reparations for those victimized in the past.

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