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Revisiting Revolution:

50 Years of Peasant Wars in Latin America

Revisiting Revolution - Poster image - Vandy Anthropology

Friday, September 20th

9:30-4 p.m.

Garland Hall 121

Streaming trough Zomm:

What motivates people to struggle against oppressive social orders? In 1969, Eric Wolf explored this in his ground-breaking book, Peasant Wars of the Twentieth Century. Moved by the passions unleashed by the Vietnam war, he asked what made rural people take up revolutionary causes. At a time when “peasants” were seen as culturally conservative, Wolf’s work showed how they and their communities fit within broader fields of capitalist, class, and state power. Yet the promise of Wolf’s innovative approach remained unrealized, as scholarship on rural movements in the late 20th century turned away from the idea that revolution is possible.

Today, rural people are still mobilizing, in movements for food security, land reform, and resistance to the consequences of decades of imperialist, counterinsurgency war, neoliberal restructuring, and wealth inequalities. This symposium brings together anthropologists and historians to reflect on developments in the fifty years since Wolf’s book appeared, to ask: Where, why, and how have peasants become political actors in the late 20th and early 21st centuries?


  • Steve Striffler, Labor Studies, University of Massachusetts, Boston
  • Leigh Binford, Department of Anthropology, Staten Island College/CUNY
  • Carwil Bjork-James, Department of Anthropology, Vanderbilt University
  • Miguel de la Serna, Department of History, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
  • Paul Kramer, Department of History, Vanderbilt University
  • Gavin Smith, Department of Anthropology University of Toronto
  • Lesley Gill, Department of Anthropology, Vanderbilt, University


  • 9:00-9:30  Coffee, Tea and Pastries
  • 9:30-10:00 –Lesley Gill (Vanderbilt) Fifty Years of Peasant Wars in Latin America.
  • 10:00-10:30 Carwil Bjork-James (Vanderbilt) From Peasant Wars to Bolivia’s Water and Gas Wars: Rural and Urban Alliances and Revolution.
  • 10:30-11:00 Miguel La Serna (UNC-Chapel Hill) Insurrection in the Andes: Lessons from Peru’s Shining Path.
  • 11:00-11:30 Leigh Binford (CUNY/Staten Island) The Catholic Church, Peasants, and Revolution in El Salvador
  • 11:30-12:30 – Discussion
  • 12:30-1:30 Lunch
  • 1:30-2:00 Steve Striffler (UMass, Boston) Rebellion, Revolution, and Reversal in Ecuador’s Countryside 
  • 2:30-3:00 Paul Kramer (Vanderbilt) Eric Wolf and the Decolonization of Marxist Global History.
  • 3:00-3:30 Gavin Smith (University of Toronto) Reflections on the Life and Work of Eric Wolf
  • 3:30-4:00  Discussion