The University of Wisconsin Press

How Difficult It Is to Be God
Shining Path’s Politics of War in Peru, 1980–1999
Carlos Iván Degregori
Edited and with an Introduction by Steve J. Stern
Translated by Nancy Appelbaum, Joanna Drzewieniecki, Héctor Flores,
Eric Hershberg, Judy Rein, Steve J. Stern, and Kimberly Theidon

Critcal Human Rights

Steve J. Stern & Scott Straus, Series Editors

“A towering achievement, the result of more than three decades of research and reflection on the interrelated phenomena of violence, war, culture, politics, and human rights in Peru.”
—Carlos Aguirre, University of Oregon

The revolutionary war launched by Shining Path, a Maoist insurgency, was the most violent upheaval in modern Peru’s history, claiming some 70,000 lives in the 1980s–1990s and drawing widespread international attention.  Yet for many observers, Shining Path’s initial successes were a mystery. What explained its cult-like appeal, and what actually happened inside the Andean communities at war?

In How Difficult It Is to Be God Carlos Iván Degregori—the world’s leading expert on Shining Path and the intellectual architect for Peru’s highly regarded Truth and Reconciliation Commission—elucidates the movement’s dynamics. An anthropologist who witnessed Shining Path’s recruitment of militants in the 1970s, Degregori grounds his findings in deep research and fieldwork. He explains not only the ideology and culture of revolution among the insurgents, but also their capacity to extend their influence to university youths, Indian communities, and competing social and political movements.

Making Degregori’s most important book available to English-language readers for the first time, this translation includes a new introduction by the editor, historian Steve J. Stern, who analyzes the author’s achievement, why it matters, and the debates it sparked. For anyone interested in Peru and Latin America’s age of “dirty war,” or in the comparative study of revolutions, Maoism, and human rights, this book will provide arresting new insights.

Carlos Iván Degregori (1945–2011) was a distinguished Peruvian anthropologist at the Instituto de Estudios Peruanos and the Universidad Mayor de San Marcos as well as a major public intellectual.
Steve J. Stern is the Alberto Flores Galindo and Hilldale Professor of History at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.


ď[This] English translation [is] . . . an invaluable resource, making Degregoriís groundbreaking research, ideas, and reflections available to students and non-specialists. The book is a masterful work by an intellectual whose insights will long continue to inspire and shape discussions of Peruís troubled twentieth century.Ē
—Jaymie Patricia Heilman, Bulletin of Spanish Studies

“Without a doubt, Degregori is the key interpreter of the Shining Path movement. This book is his masterpiece.”
—Charles Walker, University of California, Davis

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Of Related Interest:
the cover of The Inferno is blue green, with a map of Chile as if on fire.The Inferno
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Luz Arce
Translated by Stacey Alba Skar
"The Inferno is a searing and haunting memoir of one woman's journey through the hell of Pinochet's torture chambers and secret police."—Peter Winn, Tufts University

December 2012
LC: 2012010942 HV
274 pp.   6 x 9  
2 maps, 12 figures

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Paper $29.95 s
ISBN 978-0-299-28924-9
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