Rigoberta Menchu And The Story Of All Poor Guatemalans by David Stoll

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This book is about a living legend, a young Guatemalan orphaned by government death squads who said that her odyssey from a Mayan Indian village to revolutionary exile was “the story of all poor Guatemalans.” Published in the autobiographical I, Rigoberta Menchú, her words brought the Guatemalan army’s atrocities to world attention and propelled her to the 1992 Nobel Peace Prize. Five years later, as her country’s civil war ended and truth commissions prepared their reports, the Nobel laureate seemed to repudiate the life story that made her famous. “That is not my book,” she said, accusing its editor, Elisabeth Burgos, of distorting her testimony.Why the disclaimer? One reason was the anthropologist interviewing other violence survivors in her home town. In Rigoberta Menchú and The Story of All Poor Guatemalans, David Stoll uses their recollections and archival sources to establish a different portrait of the laureate’s village and the violence that destroyed it. Like the imagery surrounding Ché Guevara, Rigoberta’s 1982 story served the ideological needs of the urban left and kept alive the grand old vision of Latin American revolution. It shaped the assumptions of foreign human rights activists and the new multicultural orthodoxy in North American universities. But it was not the eyewitness account it purported to be, and enshrining it as the voice of the voiceless caricatured the complex feelings of Guatemalan Indians toward the guerrillas who claimed to represent them. At a time when Rigoberta’s people were desperate to stop the fighting, her story became a way to mobilize foreign support for a defeated insurgency.By comparing a cult text with local testimony, Stoll raises troubling questions about the rebirth of the sacred in postmodern academe. Far from being innocent or moral, he argues, organizing scholarship around simplistic images of victimhood can be used to rationalize the creation of more victims. In challenging the accuracy of a widely-hailed account of Third World oppression, this book goes to the heart of contemporary debates over political correctness and identity politics.
 

About David Stoll

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David Stoll teaches anthropology at Middlebury College. His other books include Is Latin America Turning Protestant? and Between Two Armies in the Ixil Towns of Guatemala.
 
Published December 8, 1998 by Westview Press. 368 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, Political & Social Sciences, Education & Reference, Literature & Fiction. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Rigoberta Menchu And The Story Of All Poor Guatemalans

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While remaining sympathetic to Rigoberta’s general message and to the plight of the Guatemalan peasants, Stoll’s book attempts to unveil the manner in which the elevation of Mench£’s book to the status of myth does violence to the complexities of historical reality.

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Publishers Weekly

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Stoll (Is Latin American Turning Protestant?) has written a revisionist biography of a Guatemalan woman canonized and, according to Stoll, ultimately misunderstood by the academic and political left.

Nov 30 1998 | Read Full Review of Rigoberta Menchu And The Stor...

Publishers Weekly

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Stoll (Is Latin American Turning Protestant?) has written a revisionist biography of a Guatemalan woman canonized and, according to Stoll, ultimately misunderstood by the academic and political left.

Nov 30 1998 | Read Full Review of Rigoberta Menchu And The Stor...

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Stoll, a professor of anthropology at Middlebury College, contends that key points might not be true in the Guatemalan's testimonio — a first person narrative of individual and collective experiences — titled, I Rigoberta Menchú: An Indian Woman in Guatemala (1984), and that "it is not the eyewit...

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