Civilian Participation in Politics and Violent Revolution: Ideology, Networks, and Action in Peru and India
Finn, Devin Michele
How and why do ordinary people in democratic states participate in violent revolution? This dissertation explores variation in the confluence of civilians’ participation in status quo politics – through electoral channels and civil society action – and in violent insurgencies that seek to conquer the state.Through a comparative juxtaposition of Peru’s Shining Path and the Naxalite movement in India, I argue that an insurgency’s particular ideological interpretations and conceptions of membership shape civilian support by influencing everyday social relations between rebels and civilians and changing networks of participation. During war, civilians are agents of political mobilization, and rebels exploit social networks, which draw on historical forms of organization and activism and a long trajectory of political ideas about race, citizenship, and class.I examine people’s varied participation in violent politics in three settings: the regions of Ayacucho and Puno, Peru (1960-1992), and Telangana, a region of southern India (1946-51). Where communities in Peru drew on existing political resources – diverse networks that expressed peasants’ demands for reform and representation, and which emphasized commitment to democratic contestation over armed struggle – people could choose to resist rebels’ mobilizing efforts. Where communities lacked integrated political organization, insurgents implemented violent ideologies by repurposing local networks. Mobilization in Telangana, in contrast to Ayacucho and Puno, exhibited a fluidity of method that was sustained by peasants’ agency in building a wide-ranging movement, even as it crossed the line into violence.The study draws on ten months of field research in India and Peru, where I examined local and national archival records and testimonies and conducted interviews with former left party leaders, activists, and civilians in rural and urban areas affected by violence. I develop an ethnography of people’s participation in a range of political activities, from protests and voting to civil resistance and searching for the bodies of victims of massacres. The study emphasizes a distinct ontology of the practice of politics: as a continuum of acts that may emerge as violent, illicit, licit, and non-violent in differing moments and social and cultural contexts, and acknowledges the possibility that violent and nonviolent mobilization may reinforce one another.
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