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Subject Imperial, Colonial, and Postcolonial History » Postcolonial History

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781444334982.2016.x


Banditry, as a lurid emblem for nonstate rural violence, speaks to some of the core dilemmas of Latin American modernity and its two pillars: the nation-state as its exclusive politico-cultural synthesis and a coherent capitalist economy as its dominant economic system. At least three reasons account for banditry's centrality in Latin American culture. First, the existence of a national state – as an institutional cluster exerting territorial sovereignty, as opposed to segmentarity (i.e., the low reach of the administrative political center that resulted in internal frontiers) and heteronomy (i.e., discontinuous control over the territory and its population) – was in many countries, until well into the twentieth century, less a reality than an aspiration, and it was the locus of fierce struggles. Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela, Brazil, and Peru come to mind as the most extreme cases of this phenomenon. Second, in many countries, the state's acquisition of the monopoly of violence did not entail the outright suppression of private, nonstate violence, but rather its cooptation, through a protracted process of negotiation (which did not exclude conflict) and coexistence. Witness the existence of hacendados’ and planters’ private retinues (often comprising current or former outlaws, as in the case of Peruvian Eleodoro Benel's or the Brazilian coronéis forces) as enforcers of the agrarian ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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