State terror and violence as a process of lifelong teaching-learning: the case of Guatemala

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Progressive lifelong transformative education has recognized the impact of social inequalities on learning. Some scholars applying feminist knowledge have acknowledged that violence against women (VAW) also affects learning. Yet, in this recognition there is an implicit assumption that learning is itself positive and peaceful, and impacted negatively or positively by external factors and conditions. Implicitly there is also a disconnection of learning from teaching. This article aims to open up a possibility to reflect and study learning-teaching as an articulated process that is not intrinsically peaceful and positive by using the socio-political and cultural phenomenon of state terror, including genocide, in Guatemala. Three state strategies are chosen to demonstrate how state terror was made a political culture of terror: the racialization of space-place, the invention of a sanctioned Guatemalan, and the criminalization of progressive social agency. To explore state terror as a teaching-learning process that forges a political culture of fear, I use insights from three theoretical/methodological approaches as background. These are feminist materialist intersectionality, institutional ethnography, and decolonial knowledge. All are premised on the need to study the oppression-resistance of marginalized peoples, especially women, focussing on how this oppression-resistance is deeply shaped and articulated with social relations of power such as colonialism, capitalism, racism and patriarchy, both historically and in contemporary times. I begin this inquiry, using ethnographic data, from the social standpoints of those who are most directly affected by national security, state terror, and other forms of violence, in particular diverse Maya women who are survivors. Other data come from texts from social movements, community and non-governmental organizations; documents from the Guatemalan and US states are also included, for these are used by decision makers to co-ordinate their work of surveillance, daily militarization, and the perpetration of genocide under a continuum of violence present in 'peacetime'.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Carleton University, Canada

Publication date: March 1, 2008

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