Publications by Author: Theidon, Kimberly S

Intimate Enemies: Violence and Reconciliation in Peru
Theidon, Kimberly S. 2012. Intimate Enemies: Violence and Reconciliation in Peru. University of Pennsylvania Press. Publisher's Version Abstract

In the aftermath of a civil war, former enemies are left living side by side—and often the enemy is a son-in-law, a godfather, an old schoolmate, or the community that lies just across the valley. Though the internal conflict in Peru at the end of the twentieth century was incited and organized by insurgent Senderistas, the violence and destruction were carried out not only by Peruvian armed forces but also by civilians. In the wake of war, any given Peruvian community may consist of ex-Senderistas, current sympathizers, widows, orphans, army veterans—a volatile social landscape. These survivors, though fully aware of the potential danger posed by their neighbors, must nonetheless endeavor to live and labor alongside their intimate enemies.

Drawing on years of research with communities in the highlands of Ayacucho, Kimberly Theidon explores how Peruvians are rebuilding both individual lives and collective existence following twenty years of armed conflict. Intimate Enemies recounts the stories and dialogues of Peruvian peasants and Theidon's own experiences to encompass the broad and varied range of conciliatory practices: customary law before and after the war, the practice of arrepentimiento (publicly confessing one's actions and requesting pardon from one's peers), a differentiation between forgiveness and reconciliation, and the importance of storytelling to make sense of the past and re-create moral order. The micropolitics of reconciliation in these communities present an example of postwar coexistence that deeply complicates the way we understand transitional justice, moral sensibilities, and social life in the aftermath of war. Any effort to understand post-conflict reconstruction must be attuned both to devastation as well as to human tenacity for life.

Theidon, Kimberly S. 2010. “Histories of Innocence: Post-War Stories in Peru.” Beyond the Toolkit: Rethinking the Paradigm of Transitional Justice, edited by Rosalind Shaw, Lars Waldorf, and Pierre Hazan. Palo Alto: Stanford University Press. Publisher's Version Abstract

On November 1, 2006, Peruvian president Alan García announced he would be proposing a new law that would include the death penalty as one sanction for terrorism in the Penal Code. As he argued, “We are not going to allow Shining Path to return and paint their slogans on the walls of our universities. Once this law is approved, anyone who commits the serious crime of terrorism will find themselves facing a firing squad. A war forewarned does not kill people.”


It is disconcerting to share a hotel room with someone who needs to tell you in detail how he learned to use a machete to chop the human body up into unrecognizable chunks of flesh. Vladimiro's military training showed not only in his butchering prowess, but also in his upright posture, an odd juxtaposition of perfect etiquette and lethal brutality.

A friend had brought Valdimiro by my hotel in Apartadó, knowing my colleague and I were interested in interviewing members of Colombia's paramilitary forces. Although Vladimiro arrived in civilian clothing, the phone call from the hotel receptionist made clear that he needed no uniform in order to inspire fear. "You are needed down here," she tersely informed me. When I walked down the stairs into the lobby, the three hotel employees behind the main desk all made a point of being intensely involved in their paperwork and sweeping, never looking up as I shook hands with Vladimiro and invited him and my friend Jefferson upstairs. I glanced back over my shoulder—their tasks continued to be riveting.

Theidon, Kimberly S. 2007. “Gender in Transition: Common Sense, Women, and War.” Journal of Human Rights. Journal of Human Rights. Publisher's Version Abstract
On August 28, 2003, the Commissioners of the Peruvian Truth and Reconciliation Commission (PTRC) submitted their Final Report to President Alejandro Toledo and the nation, thus joining the growing list of countries that have implemented truth commissions as a means of transitioning from a period of armed conflict and authoritarian rule towards the founding of a procedural democracy. The PTRC shared several features with the Guatemalan and South African commissions that preceded it. All three commissions were considered "gender sensitive" because they actively sought out women’s experiences of violence. This focus reflected the desire to write more "inclusive truths," as well as changes in international jurisprudence. In this paper, the author draws upon research she has conducted since 1995 in Peru to explore the commissioning of truth and some implications in terms of women and war. She examines what constitutes "gender sensitive" research strategies, as well as the ways in which truth commissions have incorporated these strategies into their work. Truth and memory are indeed gendered, but not in any common-sensical way. Thus the author hopes to offer a more nuanced understanding of the gendered dimensions of war.
Este artículo explora algunos testimonios surgidos en las comisiones de verdad en el Perú y sus implicaciones en relación con las mujeres y la guerra. Examina lo que constituye las estrategias de investigación "sensibles al género", como también los modos en los cuales las comisiones de verdad han incorporado estas estrategias dentro de su trabajo. Verdad y memoria son categorías que, de hecho, están atravesadas por el género, pero no necesariamente en los modos en los que plantea el sentido común. Por lo tanto, el texto espera ofrecer una comprensión más sutil de las dimensiones asociadas al género presentes en la guerra.
Theidon, Kimberly S, and Lisa J Laplante. 2007. “Truth with Consequences: Justice and Reparations in Post-Truth Commission Peru.” Human Rights Quarterly. Human Rights Quarterly. Publisher's Version Abstract
Truth commissions have become key mechanisms in transitional justice schemes in post conflict societies in order to assure transitions to peace, the rule of law, and respect for human rights. However, few studies examine what must happen to ensure that the transition process initiated by a truth commission successfully continues after the commission concludes its truth-gathering work and submits its final report. This article argues that while attention often focuses on prosecutions and institutional reforms, reparations also play a critical role. The authors share their observations of how government agencies, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), civil society sectors and victim-survivor’s associations struggle over reparations in post truth commission Peru, offering a preliminary analysis of key theoretical suppositions about transitional justice: they explore whether the act of telling the truth to an official body is something that helps or hinders a victim-survivor in his or her own recovery process, and whether in giving testimonies victim-survivors place particular demands upon the state. The authors conclude that while testimony giving may possibly have temporary cathartic effects, it must be followed by concrete actions. Truth tellers make an implicit contract with their interlocutors to respond through acknowledgment and redress.
Theidon, Kimberly S. 2007. “Transitional Subjects: The Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration of Former Combatants in Colombia.” The International Journal of Transitional Justice. The International Journal of Transitional Justice. Publisher's Version Abstract
A key component of peace processes and postconflict reconstruction is the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) of ex-combatants. DDR programs imply multiple transitions: from the combatants who lay down their weapons, to the governments that seek an end to armed conflict, to the communities that receive – or reject – these demobilized fighters. At each level, these transitions imply a complex and dynamic equation between the demands of peace and the clamor for justice. And yet, traditional approaches to DDR have focused almost exclusively on military and security objectives, which in turn has resulted in these programs being developed in relative isolation from the growing field of transitional justice and its concerns with historical clarification, justice, reparations and reconciliation. The author draws upon research in Colombia, a case of great interest because the government is attempting to implement mechanisms of reparations and reconciliation in a "pre-postconflict" context, and to implement DDR on the terrain of transitional justice.
Theidon, Kimberly S. 2006. “Justice in Transition: The Micropolitics of Reconciliation in Postwar Peru.” Journal of Conflict Resolution. Journal of Conflict Resolution. Publisher's Version Abstract
This article draws on anthropological research conducted with communities in Ayacucho, the region of Peru that suffered the greatest loss of life during the internal armed conflict of the 1980s and 1990s. One particularity of internal wars, such as Peru’s, is that foreign armies do not wage the attacks: frequently, the enemy is a son-in-law, a godfather, an old schoolmate, or the community that lies just across the valley. The charged social landscape of the present reflects the lasting damage done by a recent past in which people saw just what their neighbors could do. The author contributes to the literature on transitional justice by examining the construction and deconstruction of lethal violence among "intimate enemies" and by analyzing how the concepts and practices of communal justice have permitted the development of a micropolitics of reconciliation in which campesinos administer both retributive and restorative forms of justice.
In this article Theidon draws upon research conducted with communities in Ayacucho, the region of Peru that bore the greatest loss of life during the internal armed conflict of the 1980-1990s. The fratricidal nature of the conflict means that in any given community,former enemies live side by side. What is it like to live in such a context? What is it like knowing just who one lives with-and living with what oneself has done? As a way of thinking about these questions, Theidon focuses on a figure that appeared incessantly in her conversations: the masked ones. What lies behind the masks that haunt these narratives, particularly in those communities in which the "masked ones" were frequently neighbors and family members? Theidon demonstrates that talk about masks, faces, and "facelessness" is talk about morality and immorality, and about the challenges of forging co-existence among intimate enemies.
Theidon, Kimberly S. 2005. “Intimate Enemies: Towards a Social Psychology of Reconciliation.” The Psychology of Resolving Global Conflicts. The Psychology of Resolving Global Conflicts. Publisher's Version Abstract

On August 28, 2003, the Commissioners of the Peruvian Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) submitted their Final Report to President Alejandro Toledo and the nation. After two years of work and some 17,000 testimonies, the Commissioners had completed their task of examining the causes and consequences of the internal armed conflict of the 1980s-1990s.

Among the most striking conclusions in the Final Report is the number of fatalities—69,280 deaths, three times the number cited by human rights organizations and the government prior to the TRC—and the responsibility for these deaths (America's Watch, 1992). In the section of the Final Report regarding accountability, the Commissioners state that the Shining Path guerrillas (Senderistas) were responsible for 54 percent of the fatalities reported to the TRC (Truth and Reconciliation Commission, TRC, 2003).


El libro intenta rastrear una genealogía de la violencia en siete comunidades ayacuchanas con trayectorias distintas durante el conflicto armado interno. Propone una psicología social de la violencia política y la reconciliación, a partir de un acercamiento etnográfico y hermenéutico. Intenta ir más allá de la filosofía trascendente de la verdad, la justicia y la reconciliación, para examinar la vida social de estos conceptos tal y como son puestos en práctica en las comunidades campesinas ayacuchanas, cuyas prácticas culturales e iniciativas locales ofrecen un ejemplo de reconstrucción de la sociedad y de la sociabilidad, familia por familia y comunidad por comunidad.

Theidon, Kimberly S. 2003. “Disarming the Subject: Remembering War and Imagining Citizenship in Peru.” Cultural Critique. Cultural Critique. Publisher's Version Abstract

War and its aftermath serve as powerful motivators for the elaboration and transmission of individual, communal, and national histories. These histories both reflect and constitute human experience as they contour social memory and produce their truth effects. These histories use the past in a creative manner, combining and recombining elements of that past in service to interests in the present. In this sense, the conscious appropriation of history involves both memory and forgetting—both being dynamic processes permeated with intentionality.

In this essay I explore the political use of the narratives being elaborated in rural villages in the department of Ayacucho regarding the internal war that convulsed Peru for some fifteen years. I suggest that each narrative has a political intent and assumes both an internal and external audience. Indeed, the deployment of war narratives has much to do with forging new relations of power, ethnicity, and gender that are integral to the contemporary politics of the region. These new relations impact the construction of democratic practices and the model of citizenship being elaborated in the current context.

Theidon, Kimberly S. 2001. “Terror's Talk: Fieldwork and War.” Dialectical Anthropology. Dialectical Anthropology. Publisher's Version Abstract
My purpose in this essay is to raise some questions about what is involved in research on political violence. Since 1995 I have conducted ethnographic research in rural villages throughout Ayacucho, the region of Peru most heavily affected by the war between the guerrilla group Sendero Luminoso, the rondas campesinas (armed peasant patrols) and the Peruvian armed forces. A key factor motivating my research was a desire to write against the culture of violence arguments that were used to "explain" the war. The concept of a"culture of violence" or "endemic violence" has frequently been attributed to the Andean region, particularly to the rural peasants who inhabit the highlands. I wanted to understand how people make and unmake lethal violence in a particular social and historical context, and to explore the positioning and responsibilities of an anthropologist who conducts research in the context of war.