This virtual special issue, published to coincide with the conference of the Latin American Studies Association to be held in Lima on 29 April-1 May 2017, brings together articles published in the Journal of Latin American Studies on Peru in the last decade. The articles selected provide a limited though revealing vista onto recent social science scholarship on Peru.
In terms of disciplines, there is a strong political science contingent. In an influential article, de la Madrid examines ‘ethnic voting’ to show how, despite the absence of indigenous parties in Peru, voting behaviour has been shaped by presidential candidates’ use of ethnicity-based appeals to the electorate. In an article that reflects ongoing preoccupations with the quality of Peru’s democratic institutions, Dargent considers judicial independence through an examination of Peru’s Constitutional Tribunal. Reflecting a similar concern with the health of democratic institutions, Pegram accounts for the qualified success of Peru’s human right’s ombudsman.
Two articles focus on women’s movements in Peru, though one adopts a transnational comparative perspective. Jenkins considers the factors that have shaped the apparent depoliticisation of women’s grassroots movements and challenges the idea that neoliberalism alone can account for the process. Rousseau and Morales Hudon’s article examines indigenous women’s movements in Mexico, Bolivia and Peru and assess the conditions that lead, in each case, to the development of autonomous indigenous women’s mobilisation. The Peruvian case offers a dual situation with some women gaining autonomy within mixed-gender indigenous organisations and others forming independent organisations that act autonomously from mixed-gender organisations.
Political economy perspectives are covered in two articles that deal with mining, and more generally extractive industries, a sector of the Peruvian economy that has received increased attention in the last few decades as a consequence of its important growth and impact on society and environment. Reflecting similar concerns with institution-building as evident in the political science articles discussed above, Orihuela compares environmental protection policies related to mining in Peru and Chile. Schilling-Vacaflor and Flemmer similarly consider the issue of institutional strength in assessing the conditions in which the Peruvian prior-consultation law can function effectively.
History, though usually constituting up to half of the articles submitted to the journal, is relatively under-represented in the sample. In a pioneering article, Anna Cant explores the visual economy of the Revolutionary Government of the Armed Forces, and provides an insightful analysis of the ideas the Velasco regime sought to convey through its agrarian reform poster campaign. In a review essay, meanwhile, Paul Gootenberg revisits a field of scholarship, on the history of state making and development policy, that he helped to shape, in order to survey recent scholarly contributions, noting the shift away from structuralist and dependency perspectives to a more ‘political turn’.
Whether general conclusions can be drawn from this small sample of articles on Peru published in the journal is unclear. Perhaps the apparent high representation of political science and lower than normal representation of history is a reflection of recent developments in Peruvian academia, which has seen an expansion in political science scholarship. The focus on institution building and the quality of democratic institutions in several articles is certainly consonant with dominant concerns of Peruvianist scholarship in recent years, as political scientists and others attempt to make sense of both the internal armed conflict of the 1980s and 1990s and the authoritarian turn under Fujimori.
The very first issue of the Journal of Latin American Studies, published in May 1969, included a now classic seminal article on peasant uprisings in La Convención, in Cuzco department, by Eric Hobsbawm. As this special issue shows, JLAS continues to publish groundbreaking scholarship on Peru that reflects new, as well as older and still relevant, themes and approaches. As editors, we hope that such articles will help those who attend the LASA conference in Lima, and indeed, those who do not, to gain a better understanding of Peru and, as historian Jorge Basadre famously put it, of its problems and possibilities.