The Politics of Protest in the Andes


Latin America Otherwise

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Book Pages: 344 Illustrations: 42 b&w photographs, 2 maps Published: May 1999

Author: Orin Starn

Anthropology > Cultural Anthropology, Cultural Studies, Latin American Studies > Andes

Organized in the mid-1970s as a means of communal protection against livestock rustling and general thievery in Peru’s rugged northern mountains, the rondas campesinas (peasants who make the rounds) grew into an entire system of peasant justice and one of the most significant Andean social movements of the late twentieth century. Nightwatch is the first full-length ethnography and the only study in English to examine this grassroots agrarian social movement, which became a rallying point for rural pride.
Drawing on fieldwork conducted over the course of a decade, Orin Starn chronicles the historical conditions that led to the formation of the rondas, the social and geographical expansion of the movement, and its gradual decline in the 1990s. Throughout this anecdotal yet deeply analytical account, the author relies on interviews with ronda participants, villagers, and Peru’s regional and national leaders to explore the role of women, the involvement of nongovernmental organizations, and struggles for leadership within the rondas. Starn moves easily from global to local contexts and from the fifteenth to the twentieth century, presenting this movement in a straightforward manner that makes it accessible to both specialists and nonspecialists.
An engagingly written story of village mobilization, Nightwatch is also a meditation on the nature of fieldwork, the representation of subaltern people, the relationship between resistance and power, and what it means to be politically active at the end of the century. It will appeal widely to scholars and students of anthropology, Latin American studies, cultural studies, history, subaltern studies, and those interested in the politics of social movements.


Nightwatch is an elegantly crafted and important book that deserves a readership that extends far beyond the confines of Latin American anthropology and Peruvian studies. It successfully meshes a gripping narrative with an engaging discussion of key themes, ranging from the nature of fieldwork to peasant resistance and globalisation. More important, it brings to light one of the most important Latin American peasant movements of the twentieth century, until now overshadowed by the dramatic impact of the Shining Path on Peru.” — Paulo Drinot, Left History

“[A] sensitive, wide-ranging account of one of the largest recent popular grassroots movements in Latin America. . . .” — Stuart Rockefeller , American Ethnologist

“[A]n important commentary on the self-empowerment of a peasantry recently freed from serfdom on haciendas and their creation of what is characterized as the most important massive movement in recent Peruvian history.” — S. L. Rozman, Choice

“[A]n in-depth account. . . . This masterful work is captivating and honest, filled with engaging anecdotes yet analytically informed by classic and recent theoretical works. . . . Nightwatch is an extensive and impressive study of the rondas of the north.” — Jennifer S. Holmes , Latin American Research Review

“[E]ngagingly written. . . . Nightwatch provides a most interesting mix of people, institutions, and culture that makes it a very worthwhile read. Numerous photos breathe even more life into the written word.” — Ward Stavig , The Historian

“[W]ritten in an accessible and engaging style . . . interestingly enlivened with photographs, drawings, and quotations from songs popular among the villagers. . . . [H]ighly recommended both to Andean specialists and to others interested in relations between villagers and the modern state. The combination of clarity of exposition and respect for complexity makes it an excellent text for readers at all levels from bright undergraduate to professional practitioner.” — Ray Abrahams , Cambridge Anthropology

“Against the blemished backdrop of anthropology, Nightwatch stands as evidence of [Starn’s] own thoughtful striving for disciplinary renewal.” — Andrew Orta , Anthropological Quarterly

“Orin Starn tells the story well, with compelling ethnography drawing on over a decade of fieldwork in the region, but the work is also theoretically sophisticated and historically informed. In the best tradition of political anthropology, the dialogue between detailed local knowledge and the national and international political contexts in which these developments took place is never forgotten. . . . This well-written, accessible account has plenty to engage both the Peruvianist and the more general reader.” — Penelope Harvey , Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute

“This is an excellent book, exceptionally well-written, provocative and challenging and a must read for the layman or specialist interested in the dynamics of the Andean world.” — Roger P. Davis , South Eastern Latin Americanist

"Nightwatch is highly engaging and well written, with a tight narrative structure . . . and evocative fluid prose." — Peter Wogan , Identities

Nightwatch is an engaging, elegant, and enlightening account of one of the most important rural movements to emerge from Latin America since the 1960s. Orin Starn writes in direct and artfully crafted prose informed at the same time by the most up to date theoretical debates. This book will be of great interest not just to those who care about Peru and Latin America but also to scholars across anthropology, cultural studies, political science, and history.” — Arturo Escobar, author of Encountering Development: The Making and Unmaking of the Third World

“A wonderful tool. This volume offers a wealth of resources from a range of critical perspectives.” — Steven Mailloux, University of California, Irvine


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Price: $28.95

Open Access

Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Orin Starn is Associate Professor of Cultural Anthropology at Duke University. He is a coeditor of The Peru Reader: History, Culture, Politics, also published by Duke University Press.

Table of Contents Back to Top


1. Origin Stories

2. Nightwatch

3. Nightcourt

4. Women and the Rondas

5. The Rondas in the Age of the NGO

6. Leaders and Followers




Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-2321-1 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-2301-3
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