"The Guatemalan Military Project: A Violence Called Democracy"


Bookcover.jpegJennifer Schirmer
$47.50 cloth; 344 pages

At the same time the Guatemala Truth Commission was issuing its report on genocide in Guatemala, the Penn Press released a new and important book on the same subject. "The Guatemalan Military Project" is the culmination of a decade of first-hand research into the inner workings of the Guatemalan military establishment by Harvard political anthropologist Jennifer Schirmer.

Schirmer's book provides a startling analysis of how human groups can turn so violently away from expected decency and reveals possible motivational explanations for other more well-known atrocities of this century.

On a recent interview on National Public Radio, "Fresh Air" host Terry Gross asked Schirmer why she spent 10 years interviewing members of the Guatemalan military. She responded, "Unless we understand why violence occurs and how it becomes justified, how people explain what they have done to themselves and to others, then we will not be any closer. And we can document abuses and we can document massive campaigns-which is extraordinarily important to do-but we also need to understand why it happens, how it becomes justified, what are the ideologies which allow us to believe that what we're doing is correct-and not only correct-but supremely necessary in order to maintain a vision of order and stability."

New York Times Latin American Bureau Chief Larry Rohter said, "Any journalist or diplomat who has spent time in Guatemala will attest that there is no group more difficult to penetrate than the Guatemalan Armed Forces. Jennifer Schirmer's 'The Guatemalan Military Project' is a remarkable achievement."

"The Guatemalan Military Project" is part of the Penn Studies in Human Rights, edited by Bert B. Lockwood.

-University of Pennsylvania Press

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Originally published on April 1, 1999