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After Revolution

Mapping Gender and Cultural Politics in Neoliberal Nicaragua

By Florence E. Babb

Publication Year: 2001

Nicaragua’s Sandinista revolution (1979–1990) initiated a broad program of social transformation to improve the situation of the working class and poor, women, and other non-elite groups through agrarian reform, restructured urban employment, and wide access to health care, education, and social services. This book explores how Nicaragua’s least powerful citizens have fared in the years since the Sandinista revolution, as neoliberal governments have rolled back these state-supported reforms and introduced measures to promote the development of a market-driven economy. Drawing on ethnographic research conducted throughout the 1990s, Florence Babb describes the negative consequences that have followed the return to a capitalist path, especially for women and low-income citizens. In addition, she charts the growth of women’s and other social movements (neighborhood, lesbian and gay, indigenous, youth, peace, and environmental) that have taken advantage of new openings for political mobilization. Her ethnographic portraits of a low-income barrio and of women’s craft cooperatives powerfully link local, cultural responses to national and global processes.

Published by: University of Texas Press

Table of Contents

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pp. vii-viii

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1. Introduction: Writing after Revolution

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pp. 1-22

Nicaragua captured the world’s imagination and received almost obsessive attention after the victory of the Sandinista revolution two decades ago. This small Central American nation’s success in ending a forty-three-year dictatorship and its efforts to bring about a broad program of social transformation that included agrarian reform, restructured urban employment, and wide access to health care, education...

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2. Negotiating Spaces: The Gendered Politics of Location

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pp. 23-45

Nicaragua was at the center of international attention when the revolutionary struggle of the 1970s led into the Sandinista decade of the 1980s. In the social imagination of that decade, especially in the United States, the Central American nation loomed large. When I gave a talk drawing on my preliminary research at an anthropology conference in 1990, a man asked me what was the population of Nicaragua...

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3. "Managua is Nicaragua": Gender, Memory, and Cultural Politics

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pp. 46-69

Latin America is often said to receive attention from the United States only when there is a revolution or natural disaster.1 Nicaragua has experienced both in its recent history, with a significant impact on its capital city, Managua. The Sandinista revolution brought about a process of progressive social transformation in the small Central American country, while earthquakes, volcanoes, and hurricanes have wrought untold destruction there and in neighboring countries...

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4. A Place On A Map: The Local and the National Viewed from the Barrio

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pp. 70-106

Recalling Adrienne Rich’s words, “a place on a map is also a place in history,” here I offer an ethnographic portrait of a Managua neighborhood that has experienced much of what the city and the country have undergone in recent decades. Described by one resident as “the flower of the revolution,” Barrio Monseñor Lezcano, in the western part of Managua, is known for having retained its traditional...

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5. Unmaking the Revolution: Women, Urban Cooperatives, and Neoliberalism

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pp. 107-150

Programs of stabilization and structural adjustment spread widely throughout Latin America during the 1980s. In revolutionary Nicaragua, the Sandinista government introduced adjustment programs late in the decade, but harsher measures mandated by the IMF and the World Bank came later, after the 1990 elections ushered in the UNO government of Violeta Chamorro. A debate emerged...

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6. From Cooperatives to Microenterprises in the Postrevolutionary Era

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pp. 151-174

The rapid dismantling of socialist economies over the last decade, as the Soviet Union and eastern Europe have undergone dramatic transformations, has led to intense debates on the perceived failures of socialism and, for some, the inevitability of capitalism and the rule of the market. In such discussions, comparisons with China are sometimes drawn, but little mention is made of Latin American...

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7. Narratives of Development, Nationhood, and the Body

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pp. 175-202

In July 1993, at a meeting held in Managua for women working in cooperatives, the participants listened patiently as one man after another addressed them about the need to develop political consciousness during a period when the country was experiencing the harsh effects of capitalism and globalization. Finally, a woman stood up and confidently exhorted the assembled group to organize against...

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8. Toward a New Political Culture

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pp. 203-239

On March 8, 1991, International Women’s Day was celebrated in Managua. At the time, my research was still getting under way; my computer had been held up in transit from the United States to the American embassy in Managua because of heightened security imposed during the Gulf War. I was fortunate to have the use of a computer at the INCAE, where I had an office that year. And it was there that I attended a panel discussion and cocktail party in honor of women...

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9. Conclusion: Remembering Nicaragua

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pp. 240-261

The close of the twentieth century and the millennium has prompted us to look back and to look forward, to take stock of global changes during our lifetimes and to imagine what future may already be in the making. Recent retrospectives have considered the dismantling of the Soviet Union and the Berlin Wall a decade later to see what hopes were fulfilled and what disappointments have followed in the postsocialist era. Far fewer reflections have been offered...


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pp. 263-280


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pp. 281-294


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pp. 295-304

E-ISBN-13: 9780292796539
E-ISBN-10: 0292796536
Print-ISBN-13: 9780292708990
Print-ISBN-10: 0292708998

Page Count: 314
Illustrations: 40 b&w photos, 3 maps
Publication Year: 2001