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Volume 57 / Social Sciences


SUSANA LASTARRIA-CORNHIEL, Professor, Land Tenure Center, University of Wisconsin

PERU HAS SUFFERED a series of political and economic crises since the mid-1970s. Thus, it is not surprising that the prevailing theme among sociological publications is poverty, reflecting the unrelenting economic crisis that Peru and its people have suffered for several decades. The other dominant cross-cutting theme is violence: violence resulting from poverty, political struggle, and crime. Sociological publications of this period can be categorized into the following areas: gender and sexuality, youth and family, urban studies, agrarian issues, violence and the State, and ethnicity. These are obviously highly interrelated categories and many publications fall into several at the same time.

A great number of publications examine (at both personal and societal levels and as affected by State policy). The specific topics studied include gender relations such as violence against women (including prostitution, abortion, and sexual abuse), employment conditions and opportunities, gender identity (old and new norms of femininity and masculinity, mariana/marimacha models of women), women's movements and organizations, peasant women, and sexual identity (homosexuality). The most frequently used research methods are case studies and oral testimonies. Two outstanding publications in this category are edited volumes by foremost experts on gender issues: P. Portocarrero's Estrategias de desarrollo (from the NGO, Centro Flora Tristan) (item bi 96002166) and P. Ruiz-Bravo's Detras de la puerta (from La Catolica University's Gender Studies Program) (item bi 98013728).

Agrarian issues, another important theme this biennium, also cover a broad spectrum of social and political phenomena: peasant production, indigenous identity, peasant militia, and the impact of State economic policies on the rural sector, particularly the peasantry. Changing State policy toward agriculture (the agrarian reform of the 1970s, land parcelation in the 1980s, and rural land market liberalization in the 1990s) and macroeconomic policies (particularly structural adjustment policies) has had, and continues to have, deep impacts on the peasant sectors. Some of these publications reveal that while impacts are generally overwhelmingly negative for smallholder farmers and their families, there are some positive effects which should be and can be nurtured by both State policy and NGO programs.

During the period under review, SEPIA (Seminario Permanente de Investigacion Agraria), an organization of different professionals working in the rural sector, held its sixth congress in Cajamarca in August 1995. The themes were articulation and tendencies of rural markets, cultural changes and political behavior of rural society, and sustainable rural development. SEPIA is one of the most important professional organizations and forums for debate and discussion of rural issues. Papers presented at the congress are published in book form and provide a reference source for the problems and issues being debated in rural Peru.

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