Skip to content. | Skip to navigation

Personal tools

Navigation

The Rigoberta Menchú Controversy

2001

Arturo Arias, editor
Afterword by David Stoll

The Rigoberta Menchú Controversy

A balanced appraisal of the bitter debate surrounding the autobiography of Guatemala’s 1992 Nobel Peace Prize recipient.

Offers diverse perspectives on recent debates over the accuracy and cultural significance of I, Rigoberta Menchú. Arias collects the primary documents-newspaper articles, interviews, and official statements-in which the debate raged, many translated into English for the first time. A distinguished group of scholars then assesses the debate and considers its implications for such issues as the “culture wars,” historical truth, and the politics of memory. Included is a new essay by David Stoll in which he responds to his critics.

Contributors: Luis Aceituno, Juan Jesús Aznárez, John Beverley, Allen Carey-Webb, Margarita Carrera, Duncan Earle, Carolina Escobar Sarti, Claudia Ferman, Dina Fernández García, Eduardo Galeano, Dante Liano, W. George Lovell, Christopher H. Lutz, Octavio Martí, Victor D. Montejo, Rosa Montero, Mario Roberto Morales, Jorge Palmieri, Daphne Patai, Mary Louise Pratt, Danilo Rodríguez, Ileana Rodríguez, Larry Rohter, Jorge Skinner-Kleé; Elzbieta Sklodowska, Carol A. Smith, Doris Sommer, David Stoll, Manuel Vásquez Montalbán, Kay B. Warren.

This is a superb collection of source materials and scholarly articles on perhaps the most interesting controversy to have arisen in recent decades over the complex intersections of anthropological knowledge, political writing, and cultural genres of expression.

George E. Marcus, author of Ethnography through Thick and Thin

Guatemalan indigenous rights activist Rigoberta Menchú first came to international prominence following the 1983 publication of her memoir, I, Rigoberta Menchú, which chronicled in compelling detail the violence and misery that she and her people suffered during her country’s brutal civil war. The book focused world attention on Guatemala and led to her being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1992. In 1999, a book by David Stoll challenged the veracity of key details in Menchú’s account, generating a storm of controversy. Journalists and scholars squared off regarding whether Menchú had lied about her past and, if so, what that would mean about the larger truths revealed in her book.

In The Rigoberta Menchú Controversy, Arturo Arias has assembled a casebook that offers a balanced perspective. The first section of this volume collects the primary documents-newspaper articles, interviews, and official statements-in which the debate raged, many translated into English for the first time. In the second section, a distinguished group of international scholars assesses the political, historical, and cultural contexts of the debate and considers its implications for such issues as the “culture wars,” historical truth, and the politics of memory. Included is a new essay by David Stoll in which he responds to his critics.

Contributors: Luis Aceituno; Juan Jesús Aznárez; John Beverley, U of Pittsburgh; Allen Carey-Webb, Western Michigan U; Margarita Carrera; Duncan Earle, U of Texas, El Paso; Carolina Escobar Sarti; Claudia Ferman, U of Richmond; Dina Fernández García; Eduardo Galeano; Dante Liano, U of Milan; W. George Lovell, Queen’s U, Canada; Christopher H. Lutz; Octavio Martí; Victor D. Montejo, UC Davis; Rosa Montero; Mario Roberto Morales, U of Northern Iowa; Jorge Palmieri; Daphne Patai, U of Massachusetts, Amherst; Mary Louise Pratt, Stanford U; Danilo Rodríguez; Ileana Rodríguez, Ohio State U; Larry Rohter; Jorge Skinner-Kleé; Elzbieta Sklodowska, Washington U; Carol A. Smith, UC Davis; Doris Sommer, Harvard U; David Stoll, Middlebury College; Manuel Vásquez Montalbán; and Kay B. Warren, Harvard U.

The Rigoberta Menchú Controversy

Arturo Arias is director of Latin American studies at the University of Redlands.

The Rigoberta Menchú Controversy

This is a superb collection of source materials and scholarly articles on perhaps the most interesting controversy to have arisen in recent decades over the complex intersections of anthropological knowledge, political writing, and cultural genres of expression.

George E. Marcus, author of Ethnography through Thick and Thin

This collection of essays reproduces some of the more artfully crafted venom from the initial outbreak of anti-Stoll hostilities and includes later even-handed, sober academic contributions and reflections on Stoll’s work and the important issues it has raised. The issues are vital ones for scholarship, science, journalism, and teaching and this collection should be read and debated by all.

Choice

The Rigoberta Menchu Controversy is a rich and brilliantly annotated collection of writings from the uproar set off by David Stoll. The book will appeal to a wide range of readers, not only those interested in Guatamala or Latin America, but also anyone working with testimonial literature. Additionally, readers interested in the debates about multiculturalism in U.S. higher education will find much here that is relevant. The book raises some important issues about the relationship of scholarship in the United States to political and social issues here and abroad.

Aztlán

Arias opens the volume with a succinct history of Menchú’s life within and outside of Guatemalan politics. His analysis of her transformation into a spokesperson within Guatemala is particularly fascinating because it reveals how intertwined her life is with contemporary movements for social justice. This is a remarkable collection of well-written essays representing the full range of debate on the Menchú controversy. If you are wondering whether to teach I, Rigoberta or how to do so, I recommend that you teach it and that you do so in tandem with Arias’s The Rigoberta Menchú Controversy.

American Anthropologist