Elisabeth Jean Wood: Insurgent Collective Action and Civil War in El Salvador.

Written by on January 9, 2021

Elisabeth Jean Wood Insurgent Collective Action and Civil War in El Salvador Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2003, xvii + 308 pp. This award-winning volume (1) offers a superb examination of the structural and social-psychological underpinnings of high-risk activism, and is one of the most well-written books on the recent history of El Salvador. Its central focus is on the campesino civilians who collaborated with the armed insurgent movement, the FMLN, during El Salvador’s 12-year civil war (1980-1992). This collaboration, Wood points out, was not only militarily crucial to the guerrillas; it also “redrew the boundaries of class and reshaped political culture” (5). Wood sets out to solve two inter-related “puzzles” about campesino activism on the side of the armed insurgents by raising two central questions. First, what motivated people with a long history of passive resignation to injustice to risk their lives mobilizing against authorities and elites? Second, why did some campesinos support the guerrillas, while others did not? An important detail Wood provides early in the book is that all rural residents of conflict zones were compelled to provide free food and water to both the guerrillas and the government soldiers that alternately passed through their communities. But many campesinos voluntarily assisted the insurgents well beyond the obligatory minimum level, providing supplies, intelligence, and logistical aid.

By Canadian Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Studies

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