A charitable interpretation of Andean Truths: Transitional Justice, Ethnicity, and Cultural Production in Post-Shining Path Peru (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2015) would proclaim that Anne Lambright has written two books. At the core, she provides a fine analysis of the diverse ways that individuals and communities processed, commemorated, or remembered the gruesome violence of Peru from 1980 to 1992, when the Shining Path and the Peruvian state outdid one another in human rights violations. She examines cinema, literature, theater, and art (individual and collective) to explore the many ways that people understood the violence and its aftermath as well as potential paths toward reconciliation or justice. She frames this project, however, by casting the Peruvian Truth and Reconciliation Commission (CVR) and its final report as a conformist or mainstream version of events written from the perspective of the powers that be in Lima. The works that she studies, from her perspective, radically diverge from and question the CVR. This is a terrible misrepresentation that puts into question the validity of her larger arguments.
In the introduction, Lambright contends that the CVR produced a “largely officialist discourse of truth” and implies that this discourse was part of a broader neoliberal effort to bring indigenous people “into the fold” (pp. 2–3). In doing so, she both distorts the CVR and employs an odd notion of neoliberalism. She questions whether the CVR adequately addressed race and ethnicity and whether it ultimately converted indigenous people into mere victims. Lambright seeks to present the CVR as a rather conservative interpreter of the period of extreme violence in order to highlight the complexity and heterogeneity of the cultural practices that she examines in the latter chapters. In setting up this contrast, she misrepresents the CVR and ultimately weakens her analysis.
Readers without much knowledge of Peru would understand the CVR as window dressing or even a cover-up. The architect of the CVR, the anthropologist Carlos Iva´n Degregori (1945–2011), would be mortified to read this. I am certain that he would have written a rebuttal to the introduction. The CVR wrote in the face of great opposition from supporters of former president and dictator Alberto Fujimori, other conservative political parties, and the armed forces. These groups sought to sabotage the truth commission from the beginning and continue to go to great lengths to belittle or obscure its findings. The CVR’s deeply researched final report spread the blame widely, criticizing not only those who committed the crimes but also other groups that covered them up or hesitated in criticizing the state and the Shining Path. Indignation fuels the report.
Contrary to Lambright’s contentions, the CVR examined historical and social causes of the violence much more than other truth commissions. It did not overlook race and ethnicity but instead underlined from the beginning the brutal fact that 75 percent of the victims were rural and indigenous. The final report (widely available online) consists of nine volumes, including regional summaries, detailed analyses of specific massacres, lengthy testimonies, sophisticated data analysis, and more. In Andean Truths, I found only four citations beyond volume 1. Perhaps a deeper reading of the entire report would have uncovered how radically the CVR diverged from official Peru, which has sought to silence the truth commission’s work since the report’s preparation.
Of course, the CVR is not infallible and deserves critical readings. Scholars such as Kimberly Theidon and Jelke Boesten have questioned the inattention to sexual violence, while many have pointed out the lack of Quechua speakers among the commissioners. Critiquing the final report or the Lugar de la Memoria (LUM) is almost a rite of passage for those who work in cultural studies in Peru. But these critiques have been much more thoughtful and careful than Lambright’s characterization of the CVR.
This is a shame, as Lambright did not need to set up such a contrast between the supposedly mainstream perspective of the CVR and the divergent views and activities of the artists and activists whom she studies. They develop many of the themes of the CVR and point out its silences and missteps. Her analysis of Peru’s famed theater group Yuyachkani is solid, showing how they pushed for a deeper understanding ofthe violence than the CVR provided and how their work highlighted multiple perspectives on the violence and the period. She is less original in her critique of Lima authors Alonso Cueto, Iva´n Thays, and Santiago Roncagliolo but makes interesting points. When she moves her analysis to Ayacucho, she shows how groups and individuals have sought to call attention to sexual violence by the military and the Shining Path.
Lambright finishes with a few pages of reflections on the LUM, which had not yet opened when she was writing. In a final effort to contrast the CVR and its repercussions with the artists and movements that she studies, Lambright calls the LUM’s perspective “hegemonic” (p. 188). In reality, the LUM has showcased the artists studied in Andean Truths and other divergent voices and concluded on March 11, 2018, an exhibit by Edilberto Jime´nez, a retablo artist featured inAndean Truths. The contrast does not work. I am finishing this review two days after the pardon of Fujimori. Protesters have taken to the streets in Lima and other cities while “Fujitrolls” attack all those who deem to question the pardon. In their venom, they target the CVR and the LUM as well as other individuals and organizations who fight for justice. In Peru, virtually no one would contrast the CVR and the fascinating communities of memory and commemoration. Lambright does, to the great detriment of her book.
La reseña apareció originalmente en la revista The Hispanic American Historical Review (vol. 98, issue 4, 2018).