|Working Hard, Drinking Hard: On Violence and Survival in Honduras|
|Written by Adrienne Pine|
|Thursday, 21 August 2008 03:22|
Emma Lovegrove, an Anthropology student at University College of London, recently interviewed Adrienne Pine, "militant anthropologist" and author of Working Hard, Drinking Hard: On Violence and Survival in Honduras, for an article that appeared in Honduras This Week.
Firstly, what inspired you to conduct your anthropological work in Honduras? What is the history behind your relationships and work with people in this particular country?
Although I first visited Honduras in 1990, I didn't start doing research there until 1997. My decision to go to Honduras originally grew out of a desire to better understand the international process by which the clothing I wore went from design to the rack at retail stores around the U.S. Following the Kathie Lee Gifford scandal in 1996, I thought Honduras would be an interesting place to carry out a case study on the maquiladora industry. From my first research visit, however, I realized I would have to broaden my scope of analysis. Honduras is a fascinating country with such a complex history of exploitation, resistance, and poetry, that to focus on one particular industry (albeit a very important one) would have not done the Honduran people justice. The study I have done is still limited in scope-there's only so much one can fit into a book-but I have tried to make it more comprehensive than my original focus would have permitted.
With regards to my relationships with Hondurans, I have developed close friendships with three different families with whom I have lived over the years while carrying out my ethnographic research—one in La Lima, one in San Pedro Sula, and another in Tegucigalpa. These relationships are all very different in character. The members of one of the families are relatively recent, fervent converts to evangelical Christianity. Another of the families, who I got to know through their transgender daughter who sought asylum in the U.S., are devout Catholics. The third has everything from conservative army members to radical antiauthoritarian feminists. The members of all three families have survived extreme violence, and in that, tragically, they are not exceptional.
In addition to the families with whom I have lived I am lucky to have developed many close friendships over the years with Hondurans. As I write in my book, although I often find my friendships in Honduras to be more complex and challenging to maintain due to my privileged position there (as opposed to my friendships in the U.S.), they have also been more rewarding to me. I strive to create relationships of solidarity with Hondurans, rather than the patron-client relationships that characterize so many of the NGO and aid efforts in Honduras.
You recently publicized your book "Working Hard, Drinking Hard: On Violence and Survival in Honduras" at several locations in the U.S. Is your work intended to raise awareness of the problems of inequality in Honduras? In that sense, is the book intended to campaign for human rights, and who were you reaching out to when you conducted your book launches?
I do indeed hope that my book will raise awareness about the problems of inequality in Honduras. However, beyond that, I hope it will help people to tie that inequality and its deadly consequences to a much larger international system of inequalities currently being exacerbated by the neoliberal economic model. Human rights abuses, whether they are carried out by private security guards working for companies owned by the leaders of the 1980s death squad "Battalion 316," by the underpaid and poorly-trained police force, or by maquiladora owners, are inseparable from structural adjustment programs being imposed by the IMF and World Bank, with no democratic involvement on the part of the Honduran people. Such programs have dramatically decreased the security of the Honduran people by denying them access to public education, public healthcare, and public oversight of their government, while providing massive profits to private corporations who are not required to return the favor in the form of taxes. At the same time, people have been distracted by the extremely high levels of violent crime, often carried out by agents of the state and private industry. Thus, many call for a different kind of security than that offered by education and healthcare. This arrived in Ricardo Maduro's presidency in the form of "Zero Tolerance," a draconian crime control policy imported by former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, and resulted in what I call an "invisible genocide" and what Hondurans refer to as "street cleaning"-the murder of thousands of youths, primarily unemployed young men who were marked as criminals by a society that had no room for them.
So, although I am referring here to the particular case of Honduran human rights abuse, the various structures that facilitate them are international in scope. While Giuliani's policy did not result in large-scale killings in New York, many accused it of criminalizing poverty and cleaning the streets to aid economic investment that never trickled down to the poor. Zero tolerance was implemented in New York and then Honduras to stop a violent yet vague threat, "delinquency," just as the Patriot Act, which reconfigured the U.S. constitution toward creating a security state, was implemented in the name of stopping the vague enemy, "terrorism." Similarly, the privatization of schools and healthcare in the United States, part of the Washington consensus model followed by the IMF and World Bank, has significantly increased the structural vulnerability of a large part of the population, a fact which is reflected in the poor educational outcomes, and high mortality and morbidity rates among people in that country. Thus, my goal in touring the U.S. is to help people better understand structural violence in Honduras as being not so different from their own. The target audience is as broad as people who care a whit about justice. While my book contains a significant amount of social theory, it is written in language that a college freshman could understand. On this tour, much of which I did jointly with Oscar Estrada, director of the documentary film "El Porvenir," I have spoken at 12 different venues. These have included independent bookstores, Central American Resource Centers, the School of Public Health at the University of Pennsylvania, union halls, the Washington Office on Latin America, and even anarchist collectives. I have spoken with people from all over the political spectrum, which is my aim. I don't see the issue of structural violence as belonging to conservatives, liberals, deists, atheists, or any other group. It is something we should all be concerned with, and which I hope we can come together to change. But we have to start with a dialogue, with understanding.
To read the interview in its entirety visit: http://www.quotha.net
Excerpted Working Hard, Drinking Hard: On Violence and Survival in Honduras (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2008). Copyright (c) 2008 by the Regents of the University of California.
"Melisa" (from p.69-72)
I never got to know Melisa very well. I first saw her on August 7th, 1997. I was eating tajadas (crispy fried plaintains) at a small neighborhood restaurant with Rebeca's daughter Vanesa and Vanesa's friend Elysa. An androgynous black girl with a shaved head wearing a t-shirt that read "O.J. 100% NOT GUILTY" in African National Congress colors came in. Elysa, whose boyfriend had been deported from the U.S. for gang activity, flinched. "She's a Dieciocho," she told me. "Everybody's afraid of la negra." The girl sat down by herself and ate her tajadas contentedly.
R: A private group. Nobody knows. Everybody sees them do it, but nobody knows who did it. And they're in league with the police.
A: All of them? They killed every single one?
To purchase Working Hard, Drinking Hard: On Violence and Survival in Honduras, visit: http://www.ucpress.edu/books/pages/10769.php