Guerrilla Auditors

The Politics of Transparency in Neoliberal Paraguay

Guerrilla Auditors

Book Pages: 312 Illustrations: 12 illustrations, 1 map Published: September 2011

Anthropology > Cultural Anthropology, Globalization and Neoliberalism, Latin American Studies > Southern Cone

Guerrilla Auditors is an ethnographic account of the rise of information, transparency, and good governance in the post–Cold War era, and the effects of these concepts on Paraguay’s transition to democracy. Kregg Hetherington shows that the ideal of transparent information, meant to depoliticize bureaucratic procedures, has become a battleground for a new kind of politics centered on legal interpretation and the manipulation of official documents. In late-twentieth-century Paraguay, peasant land politics moved unexpectedly from the roads and fields into the documentary recesses of state bureaucracy. When peasants, bureaucrats, and development experts encountered one another in state archives, conflicts ensued about how bureaucracy ought to function, what documents are for, and who gets to narrate the past and the future of the nation. Hetherington argues that Paraguay’s neoliberal democracy is predicated, at least in part, on an exclusionary distinction between model citizens and peasants. Despite this, peasant activists have found ways to circumvent their exclusion and in so doing question the conceptual foundations of international development orthodoxy.


“Hetherington argues that Paraguayan neoliberalism is premised on an exclusionary distinction between modern citizens and backward peasants, but his analysis could benefit from a deeper consideration of the class divisions that are reshaping Paraguayan society.... [T]he book is a well-written, insightful study of an underresearched Latin American country, and it should be read by social scientists, development practitioners, and area studies specialists.” — Lesley Gill, American Historical Review

Guerilla Auditors is a superb deep ethnography of development that excavates how land politics and the technologies of “good governance” collude to produce campesinos as firmly outside of proper democratic society in post-Stroessner Paraguay…. Hetherington’s latest is necessary reading for students and scholars of development, Paraguay and Latin American populism alike.” — Jennifer Tucker, AmeriQuests

Guerrilla Auditors is a fine refutation of certain stances in global NGO and academic arguments (what he terms the “new democrats”). . . . Guerrilla Auditors provides us with a rich account of another, important theme: the constitutive cultural power of bureaucratization, such as the highly valued possession of original documents on physical paper, and not copies, in the world of ostensibly non-bureaucrats, peasants within a state society.” — Josiah Heyman, Anthropological Quarterly

Guerrilla Auditors is a path-breaking sociological analysis of peasant land struggles in Paraguay following the collapse of the Stroessner regime in 1989…. the author’s comfortable prose makes this well-written book accessible to readers who may not be familiar with this specific country, rural Latin America, and the intricacies of politics in the Southern Cone. I wish that this analysis of Paraguay’s legal system had been available twenty years ago…. I recommend this book as a path breaking contribution to the sociological literature about Paraguayan politics and peasants.” — René Harder Horst,, A Contracorriente

“Kregg Hetherington has produced a compelling ethnography of margins that not only provides a much-needed addition to the anthropological literature on Paraguay, but will be of interest to a broader readership.” — Christine Folch, Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology

“Kregg Hetherington’s highly original account of the rise of information and transparency in the governance of Paraguay points to a new kind of struggle and one that political scientists wedded to old categories and classes would do well to consider…. This book should become essential reading on modern politics courses, highlighting the new forms of contestation that are shaping Latin America’s globalised future.” — EC, Latin American Review of Books

“Kregg Hetherington's elegant ethnography makes important interventions into the anthropological scholarship on documents, the political anthropology of the state, and literatures on land reform and neoliberalism in Latin America. He brings together a deeply contextualized examination of land reform in post-Stroessner Paraguay with a theoretically and ethnographically rich study of the emerging politics of transparency among both urban elites and rural campesinos…. Hetherington writes beautifully…. Guerrilla Auditors thus not only makes important contributions to the ethnographic study of power, law, bureaucracy, and politics but offers much for readers interested in an engaged anthropology.” — Heath Cabot, PoLAR

"Hetherington’s book is a gem, and there are simply too many threads one could pick up and follow to broader and interesting implications." — Manuel Balan, Latin American Research Review

"Guerilla Auditors is a much-needed contribution to the study of Paraguayan politics. Hetherington has chosen a very important topic in an understudied country. The history of Paraguay’s democratic transition is both opaque and highly politicized, and Hetherington passes through it with skill and nuance, drawing freely from the ethnography of campesino settlements and state archives and the history of land tenure and national politics." — Warren M. Thompson, Social Forces

"Guerrilla Auditors is a pathbreaking ethnography of peasant struggle in Paraguay. … The book develops new ways of thinking about an older issue in Latin America: the rural peasantry and the struggle for livelihoods, rights, and survival. … This work is a must-read for students of Latin American politics, social movements, and the state." — Bret Gustafson, The Americas

Guerrilla Auditors is the most exciting book I’ve read on neoliberal reform in the global south. It changes how social scientists will look at documents and study land reform, populism, and peasants. The argument is brilliant and original, and the combination of ethnography and theory is superb. This book shows why ethnography matters.” — Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing, author of Friction: An Ethnography of Global Connection

“Understanding that property and the neoliberal project of transparency rest on ‘paperwork,’ Kregg Hetherington brilliantly deconstructs the politics of creating documents. His astute, closely observed, and entertaining study is radical scholarship at its deepest and most searching. A powerful point of departure for the next generation of critiques of development.” — James C. Scott, author of Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Kregg Hetherington is Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments ix

Note on Names xiii

Introduction 1

1. The Transition to Democracy 25

2. Ill-Gotten Land 66

3. Precarious Lots 97

4. Duplicitous Documents 143

5. Populist Transparency 184

Epilogue 223

Notes 233

Bibliography 263

Index 283
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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-5036-1 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-5019-4
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