In the 1980s, Guatemala's state-sponsored violence reached genocidal proportions and led to community ruptures, endemic fear, deepened distrust, and unprecedented levels of daily violence that have continued into the post-war period. Tragically, the war's resolution has not ended the country's volatility and insecurity. Reconciliation is challenging and requires a much deeper structural overhaul. It is problematical for a society that has been created on a rigid, ethnic-based, and highly divisive foundation now to take steps toward reclaiming a non-existent pre-war period of concord. An inclusive and just society, which respects the fundamental human rights of all, is essential yet sorely lacking. Moving in this direction is hindered by the historic impunity enjoyed by the military and the powerful, as well as a dysfunctional judicial system in need of reform.
Ethnographic Engagement with Bureaucratic Violence
Erin R. Eldridge and Amanda J. Reinke
Bureaucracies are dynamic and interactive sociocultural worlds that drive knowledge production, power inequalities and subsequent social struggle, and violence. The authors featured in this special section mobilize their ethnographic data to examine bureaucracies as animated spaces where violence, whether physical, structural, or symbolic, manifests in everyday bureaucratic practices and relationships. The articles span geographic contexts (e.g., United States, Canada, Chile, Eritrea) and topics (e.g., migration, extractive economies, law and sociolegal change, and settler colonialism) but are bound together in their investigation of the violence of the administration of decisions, care, and control through bureaucratic means.
Colonial Bureaucratic Violence, Identity, and Transitional Justice in Canada
Jaymelee J. Kim
While traditionally underrepresented in transitional justice studies, anthropological study of culture, ethnography, and processes can contribute valuable insight into colonial bureaucracies and dynamics of power. This article uses an ethnographic approach and a colonial bureaucratic violence theoretical foundation to analyze negative perceptions of transitional justice at the ground level. Participants included facilitators, government officials, nonprofit organizations, and Indigenous community members; research occurred during implementation of transitional justice (2011–2014) for a period of 12 months. Specifically, I argue that the relationship between transitional justice and colonial bureaucratic violence encourages negative views of transitional justice. Instead, ethnographic data first reveals that bureaucratic processes within transitional justice challenge Indigenous identities. Second, Indigenous survivors in British Columbia, Canada, largely view transitional justice on a continuum of colonial bureaucratic violence. Using a colonial bureaucratic violence framework, this article provides insight and nuance into perceptions of transitional justice at the local level.
Towards Transformative Collaborations?
As a researcher working within the field of collaborative or ‘engaged’ legal and political anthropology in Latin America, law does very much shape my research agenda and that of most of my colleagues. I would also contend that anthropology does impact law throughout the region, although to a much lesser extent. This is most evident in the legalisation, judicialisation and juridification of indigenous peoples’ collective rights to autonomy and territory in recent decades. Yet, the influence of anthropology on legal adjudication in the region is not only limited to issues pertaining to indigenous peoples: engaged applied ethnographic research is playing an increasingly important role in revealing to legal practitioners and courts the effects of human rights violations in specific contexts, and victims’ perceptions of the continuums of violence to which they are subjected.