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  • Feminist and Human Rights Struggles in Peru: Decolonizing Transitional Justice by Pascha Bueno-Hansen
  • Kimberly Theidon (bio)
Pascha Bueno-Hansen, Feminist and Human Rights Struggles in Peru: Decolonizing Transitional Justice (University of Illinois Press, 2015), ISBN 9780252039423, 222 pages.

In this thoughtful book, Pascha Bueno-Hansen brings intersectionality and de-colonial feminist theories and methods to bear on the practice of human rights and transitional justice. Using Peru's Truth and Reconciliation Commission (PTRC) from 2001 to 2003 and its public hearings as the focus of her analysis, Bueno-Hansen argues that just as it was insufficient to "add women and stir" to the development [End Page 769] agenda, neither is it sufficient to add a gendered or cultural veneer to transitional justice. Indeed, rather than deploying gender as a synonym for women, or assuming culture matters only when transitional justice practitioners encounter an ethnic or racial "Other," her argument is that we take seriously both the gendered and cultural assumptions upon which human rights and transitional justice are founded and practiced. While steeped in her deep knowledge of Peru, Bueno-Hansen offers insights that will be of wide applicability.

The book is framed by two theoretical approaches. The first draws on Kimberlé Crenshaw's influential concept of intersectionality to account for various axes of oppression and their impact on those who inhabit the crucibles. Bueno-Hansen adds decolonial feminisms to her analytical tool kit to study the ways that colonial relations of exploitation and domination function and persist to the present day. As she states, "Combining an intersectional analytic sensibility with decolonial feminisms enables us to theorize more fully the Latin American and specifically Peruvian context. As a result, this examination historically situates gender-based violence, the reasoning that sustains it, and its ongoing impunity as related to the legacy of colonialism in Peru."1 By combining these two frameworks, Bueno-Hansen demonstrates the need to account for historically entrenched forms of discrimination that may escape the violation-centric and temporally bound tendencies of both human rights and transitional justice. To these lenses, she adds a feminist commitment to exposing the myopic effects of binary variables and the grids of intelligibility they construct. Moving through a classic series of binaries—private and public, criminal and political, and ordinary and extraordinary violence—Bueno-Hansen illustrates how these binaries flatten the complexity of human experience, and construct blind spots and inadvertent silences. With a keen eye to those moments in which the surplus of human subjectivity and experience exceed the limits of binary oppositions, she provides theorists and practitioners of transitional justice with suggestions for decolonizing their questions and their methods.

Her first chapter offers a genealogy of the human rights and feminist movements in Peru, noting that both movements inadvertently marginalized precisely that group of Peruvians who bore the brunt of the original process of colonization, as well as the imposition of interventions and methodologies that replicate historical patterns of domination and exclusion: Quechua-speakers in general, and Andean women peasants (campesinas) in particular. For the human rights organizations, the focus was on human rights violations in general rather than gender-based violence per se. In turn, the largely urban-based feminist organizations were focused on a broader agenda of women's rights, and conflict-related gender-based violence was not a top priority. Thus the violence targeting campesinas as ethnically-marked Andean women was deprioritized by both movements, to the lethal detriment of those women situated at the crossroads of multiple vectors of oppression. Bueno-Hansen makes an important point when she notes the sources of authority marshaled by the human rights movement at times placed it at odds with the feminist [End Page 770] organizations. Progressive sectors of the Catholic and Evangelical churches had contributed to human rights activism and lent their considerable moral authority to advocacy efforts. For the feminist organizations however, the churches' progressive agenda did not extend to the sphere of sexual and reproductive rights, resulting in an ongoing source of tension carried through into Peru's transitional justice process.

That process formally began with the interim government of Valentín Paniagua, who assumed the presidency after disgraced president Alberto Fujimori fled the...


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pp. 769-774
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