“Reclaiming Our Hands”
During the last two decades of the 20th century the Peruvian internal armed conflict affected thousands of Quechua-speaking campesinos [peasants], including those in the community of Huancasancos. The pre-existing socioeconomic conditions strongly informed the conflict’s origins and help us to understand how its legacies have unfolded. This feminist participatory action research (PAR) dissertation was conducted with Andean women knitters from Huancasancos. Through this process the participants and I explored how organizing through a women’s knitting association could be one way to identify and face challenges in their community, including the social and emotional legacies of the armed conflict as well as ongoing structural gender and racial violence. Through participatory workshops we collectively analyzed topics related to the research focus, and the knowledge that we co-constructed was the primary dissertation data. These collective reflections were subsequently analyzed using a constructivist grounded theory approach (Charmaz, 2014) and were complemented by 16 individual interviews and field notes. The major findings of this dissertation reflect the urgency that Andean women feel about confronting material poverty. Also prevalent were Andean women’s experiences of gender racialized violence, experiences that limit their capacity to face their material poverty and improve their living conditions. Finally, these findings also confirm that the concept of “organizing-as-women” has been introduced into rural Andean towns by outsiders. As ideas from outside of the community, they typically fail to incorporate ways of organizing that already exist in these communities. Similarly, transitional justice and its mechanisms are experienced as having been introduced from outside the community and as disconnected from Andean people’s lived experiences of the armed conflict and its wake. The findings of this study yield important implications for professionals interested in working in transitional justice settings, particularly those working in cultural contexts different from one’s own. The study has additional implications for those who work with Andean and other indigenous women who have experienced the violence of armed conflict and continue to experience ongoing gender and racial marginalization.