The Corner of the Living

Ayacucho on the Eve of the Shining Path Insurgency

By Miguel La Serna

304 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 8 halftones, 3 maps, notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-0-8078-7219-2
    Published: March 2012
  • eBook ISBN: 978-0-8078-8263-4
    Published: March 2012

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Peru's indigenous peoples played a key role in the tortured tale of Shining Path guerrillas from the 1960s through the first decade of the twenty-first century. The villagers of Chuschi and Huaychao, high in the mountains of the department of Ayacucho, have an iconic place in this violent history. Emphasizing the years leading up to the peak period of violence from 1980 to 2000, when 69,000 people lost their lives, Miguel La Serna asks why some Andean peasants chose to embrace Shining Path ideology and others did not.

Drawing on archival materials and ethnographic field work, La Serna argues that historically rooted and locally specific power relations, social conflicts, and cultural understandings shaped the responses of indigenous peasants to the insurgency. In Chuschi, the guerrillas found indigenous support for the movement and dreamed of sparking a worldwide Maoist revolution. In Huaychao, by contrast, villagers rose up against Shining Path forces, precipitating more violence and feeding an international uproar that took on political significance for Peru during the Cold War. The Corner of the Living illuminates both the stark realities of life for the rural poor everywhere and why they may or may not choose to mobilize around a revolutionary cause.

A project of First Peoples: New Directions in Indigenous Studies

About the Author

Miguel La Serna is assistant professor of history at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
For more information about Miguel La Serna, visit the Author Page.


“Highly recommended. All levels/libraries.”--Choice

“Well written, engaging and accessible. . . . La Serna has produced a work that will stand as a key source for understanding Peru’s Shining Path war and indigenous peasants’ complex participation in the conflict.”--Canadian Journal of History

"Engagingly written and well-researched, La Serna's book is an invaluable contribution for understanding the rise of the Shining Path and communities' responses to it.--"The Americas

“La Serna’s argument is compelling and persuasive. . . . The writing is vivid, the research impressive, and the analysis lucid.”--Steve Stern, The Historian

“Represents a major and original contribution.”--Journal of Latin American Studies

"La Serna's archival research and field work are impressive and his writing is strong and confident. With lucid analysis, cutting-edge research, and a fascinating topic, this book is at the forefront of its field and will be of interest to all students of Latin America."--Charles Walker, University of California, Davis

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