AyacuchoNew Research Project: Intimacies of Violence: Veterans' accounts of gender and warfare and its aftermath in Peru
The experiences of soldiers in the perpetration of state violence are often obscured through official narratives of heroic counter-insurgency and the legitimate use of violence, or through trials against them for human rights abuses. Nevertheless, soldiers’ own experiences and understandings of violence are important in order to improve our understanding of human rights abuses while serving in the military as well as post-conflict sequels of such experiences. Intimacies of Violence is a research project that listens to the voices of the rank and file of those who fought in counter-insurgency, focusing on Peru. The project will result in articles and books for both Peruvian and international audiences.
We are particularly interested in soldiers’ affective relationships while serving in the military, and the building of family and community after their service. The dual experience of receiving and enacting violence and abuse is central to these narratives.
The newly created space for veterans’ stories has allowed some to speak up about their experiences, first in private and increasingly in public. In September 2019, a veteran community in Ayacucho organised a narrative competition of veterans’ stories focusing on the experience of recruitment and training -the majority was forcibly recruited when between 16 and 18 years old. Members were asked to write down their experiences in an essay, which were then judged by Jelke Boesten and co-researcher Lurgio Gavilán (veteran, anthropologist, and writer). The winning essay is by Wilber Llactahuaman Astoray: Comiendo trapo y cagando frazada / Eating rags and shitting blankets.
In addition, the community worked with students from the local arts college which produced artwork based on conversations with the veterans, which you find below. A workshop that discusses this work and other similar work will be announced soon.