The Rural State
Making Comunidades, Campesinos, and Conflict in Peru's Central Sierra
295 Pages, 7 b&w photos, 1 map
Sales Date: January 17, 2023
2023 Marysa Navarro Best Book Prize, New England Council of Latin American Studies (NECLAS)
A study of the intersection of rural populations, state formation, and the origins of political conflict in Peru.
On the eve of the twentieth century, Peru seemed like a profitable and yet fairly unexploited country. Both foreign capitalists and local state makers envisioned how remote highland areas were essential to a sustainable national economy. Mobilizing Andean populations lay at the core of this endeavor. In his groundbreaking book, The Rural State, Javier Puente uncovers the surprising and overlooked ways that Peru’s rural communities formed the political nation-state that still exists today.
Puente documents how people living in the Peruvian central sierra in the twentieth century confronted emerging and consolidating powers of state and capital and engaged in an ongoing struggle over increasingly elusive subsistence and autonomies. Over the years, policy, politics, and social turmoil shaped the rural, mountainous regions of Peru until violent unrest, perpetrated by the Shining Path and other revolutionary groups, unveiled the extent, limits, and fractures of a century-long process of rural state formation. Examining the conflicts between one rural community and the many iterations of statehood in the central sierra of Peru, The Rural State offers a fresh perspective on how the Andes became la sierra, how pueblos became comunidades, and how indígenas became campesinos.
In many ways, Ondores is the modern-day counterpart of colonial Huarochirí, a highland community whose official creation, recognition, reform, and rupture have been vividly historicized using an amazing range of sources. Javier Puente brilliantly reveals the processes of conciliation and struggle with the Peruvian state that both formed and destabilized agrarian communities and peasant livelihoods in the Central Andes—in the process, revealing the inherently local nature of Peru’s devastating internal armed conflict. This work deserves to be read widely by anyone interested in the political challenges of rural existence and changing meanings of indigeneity and community during the twentieth century.
— Gregory T. Cushman, University of Arizona, author of Guano and the Opening of the Pacific World: A Global Ecological HistoryBased on field research, local and national archives, and abundant oral testimonies, Javier Puente’s scholarship is deep and impressive. His fine-grained analysis of these sources combines multiple perspectives to shape an examination of broad sociopolitical patterns from the locus of a peasant village. Rather than being coastal or Lima-centric, or even Cuzco-centric, The Rural State is anchored in the story of a forgotten village that was swept into the larger currents of national and global change.
— Brooke Larson, SUNY, Stony Brook, author of Trials of Nation Making: Liberalism, Race, and Ethnicity in the Andes, 1810–1910The Rural State is a welcome contribution to the agrarian history of Peru. Zooming in and out of the local, regional, and national, Javier Puente sheds new light on key processes that shaped Peru’s twentieth-century history, including the rediscovery of the sierra as a region with economic potential; the creation of Indigenous communities as legal entities visible to the state; the expansion of agrarian capitalism and the modernization projects that accompanied it; the ambiguous impact of military reformism and top-down agrarian reform; the Shining Path insurgency and its devastating effects on communal life; and the new dawn of neoliberalism and its transformation of sierra landscapes and livelihoods. Historians of Latin America and agrarian studies scholars will find much of interest in this book.
— Paulo Drinot, University College London, author of The Sexual Question: A History of Prostitution in Peru, 1850s–1950s[An] impressive new book...[Puente] tells a dynamic story about historical transformation driven from above and below: how rural, colonial pueblos in Peru’s Central Sierra became legally recognized comunidades and how Indigenous peoples became campesinos over the course of the 20th century through different forms of state intervention...This is an intensely local community history that simultaneously integrates regional, national, and international scales into its historical scope...An evocative, rich and meticulously researched study.
— NACLAThe Rural State makes an important contribution to our understanding of the evolution and dynamics of rural statecraft (seen here as a knowledge-practice) in twentieth-century Peru. The long-term arc traced by the book, combined with the broad and finely interpreted source work, is the real strength of the book...It will make profitable reading for historians of Peru and Latin America as well as scholars of peasants, indigenismo, and rural policies more broadly.
— H-EnvironmentThrough its unique perspective, The Rural State joins a burgeoning category of scholarship that takes account of rural politics, recognising often ignored rural communities as central arenas of nation-state building...The Rural State successfully draws a through-line across the major events of twentieth-century Peru, arguing that the countryside and the state have maintained an intimate—and often antagonistic—relationship that shaped national history, whose lasting frictions lead to the violence of the century’s final decades...The Rural State is ambitious, novel, and clear. I highly recommend it to any scholar searching for a new lens with which to consider nation-state building, development, and rural politics in Latin America.
— LSE Review of BooksThe Rural State also allows us to reﬂect on the need to research the making of both comunidades and the state via interdisciplinary approaches and methodologies. This book will appeal not only to history and social science scholars but more broadly to those interested in understanding interactions between peasant politics and the Peruvian state.
— Hispanic American Historical ReviewLike all good studies, The Rural State opens new lines of enquiry too . . . Scholars interested in Peruvian history, indigeneity and agrarian studies will learn much from Puente’s book. This reader certainly did.
— Journal of Latin American Studies
- Introduction: Bringing Back the Central Sierra
- 1. Reimagining the Peruvian Andes
- 2. Making Indigenous Communities
- 3. Reconciling the State and Communities
- 4. Reforming without Revolution
- 5. Making Campesino Communities
- 6. Tilling an Agrarian Conflict
- Conclusion: Eroding Rural Communities