American Ethnological Society
Oral Presentation Session
Stemming from charges of corruption by a local Mayor who was allegedly a member of Sendero Luminoso, my paper provides a nuanced study of a grievous human rights abuse case in Peruvian Amazonia. It reveals that the various modalities of the embodiment, performance, and enactment of corruption differ depending on their contextual circumstances. As multivalent practices and discursive formations, one should never assume corruption merely benefits elites, or that anti-corruption efforts invariably further the interests of those marginalized from the centers of power (Goldstein and Drybread 2018). Corruption is a fluid and highly malleable socio-cultural phenomena. It entails practices aimed at the creation of wealth, the amassing of cultural prestige and monopoly over power. It also thrives as a political tactic, perhaps most apparent when expressed discursively in terms of ‘anti-corruption’ campaigns. In the war-torn Huallaga Valley of Peruvian Amazonia, the study of both historical and emergent forms of (anti)corruption require novel approaches to comprehending the complex relationships among morality, (il)legality and violent mutuality (Dean 2019). Instead of simply rejecting the insights yielded from functional approaches to corruption, my paper demonstrates the dynamic interplay between purposive action and mutuality in shaping the ontological experiences and representations of the embodiment of corruption. Influenced by recent advances in our understanding of the inter-subjectivities of suffering during times of violence and in post-conflict societies, my paper on the (im)morality of corruption contributes to the growing body of ethnographic data on human rights that underscores the import of locally shared understandings of social solidarity.