From Manchay Tiempo to 'Truth': Cultural Trauma and Resilience in Contemporary Peruvian Narrative

Rojas, Adriana, Spanish - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Padrón, Ricardo, Department for Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese, University of Virginia

Clashes between the Shining Path and counterinsurgency during Peru’s internal conflict left the scars of symbolic, physical, and sexual violence on civil society. Peruvian cultural production has since engaged the memory, trauma, and lasting effects of this violence. The old paradigm of reading such productions through the framework of regional allegiances—criollo and Andean—is monological and inadequate for interpreting novels and films composed in the postconflict period of the 1990s and 2000s. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 2003 also altered significantly the predominant narrative of cultural trauma by shifting the focus from the Shining Path to government abuses. The first chapter of this dissertation studies precommission representations of the armed conflict in the criollo text Lituma en los Andes by Mario Vargas Llosa and the Andean text Rosa Cuchillo by Oscar Colchado. Despite supposed differences in ideology and representations of lo andino, both construct a space of death that communicates a pessimistic moral imagination because they cannot conceive of a nonviolent Peru. The second chapter shines a light on a shift in the cultural trauma discourse: detective fiction exposes the government as the main perpetrators of the internal conflict. I examine Abril rojo by Santiago Roncagliolo and Mientras huya el cuerpo by Ricardo Sumalavia as exemplary ruptures with the discourses of lo andino that instead focus on the trauma of the armed conflict and its legacy. Alberto Durant’s film Cuchillos en el cielo and Ulises Gutiérrez Llantoy’s novel Ojos de pez abisal—the foci of the third chapter—depict the challenges of transitional justice in the face of diaspora, impunity, and stigmatization. Both texts present a need for two kinds of justice models, recovery and restorative, to deal with the needs of victims, survivors, and ex-offenders. The final chapter engages Claudia Llosa’s La teta asustada for a discussion on postmemory and the traumatic effects of the armed conflict on the postgeneration, which is made up of subjects attempting to overcome the blows of memory and cultivate resilience. In the face of injustice, impunity, and the impossibility of closure, these texts either scrutinize problems in postconflict Peru or present the resilience of the human spirit and alternative paradigms for moving forward after a turbulent historical period. Such explorations propose a dialogical, reconciliatory criticism that focuses not on outdated nineteenth- and twentieth-century dichotomies but on how race, gender, and class intersect with trauma and resilience as a part of the reformulation of identity and relationships after violent conflict.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Shining Path, Peruvian Narrative, Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Fujimori, Trauma, Resilience, Peruvian Film, Mario Vargas Llosa, Oscar Colchado, Claudia Llosa, Alberto Durant, La teta asustada, The milk of sorrow, Lituma en los Andes, Rosa Cuchillo
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