Institutional Scholarship

Revolutionary Transgressions: Gendering the Nicaraguan Literacy Crusade

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dc.contributor.advisor Watson, Rubie
dc.contributor.author Benson, Jemma
dc.date.accessioned 2013-08-27T13:09:09Z
dc.date.available 2013-08-27T13:09:09Z
dc.date.issued 2013
dc.identifier.uri http://hdl.handle.net/10066/11719
dc.description.abstract One month after a bloody revolution in July 1979, the Frente Sandinista de Liberación Nacional (FSLN), the new presiding political power of Nicaragua, began to plan for a massive literacy campaign. From March to August of 1980, high schools and universities closed as more than 50,000 students, termed brigadistas, flooded the countryside to teach the rural poor how to read. From an effective rate of 40 percent, the Literacy Crusade reduced illiteracy to 13 percent (Miller 1985: 198, 203). Of the volunteers who taught literacy in the countryside, 60 percent were women. The FSLN hailed the Crusade as an advancement for women, largely stemming from their high levels of participation, a narrative which has been re-inscribed in the literature on the campaign. Additionally, the FSLN included lessons in the pedagogical materials of the campaign claiming that the revolution would “make possible women’s liberation.” This study seeks to problematize these discourses surrounding gender in the Literacy Crusade. I depend on Pierre Bourdieu’s concept of habitus, Rosario Montoya’s discussion of revolutionary subjectivity, and theories of machismo in order to argue that contradictory gendered discourse produced by the Sandinista government created a space in the Literacy Crusade conducive to shifts in the habitus of individual female participants, while simultaneously reinforcing a normative machismo. Through a close analysis of the pedagogical materials of the Crusade, propaganda posters, government documents, diaries, and letters, as well as interviews with participants, I suggest that the complexities and contradictions found in discursive representations and embodied experiences of the Literacy Crusade serve to depict the limitations and possibilities of making revolution.
dc.description.sponsorship Haverford College. Department of Anthropology
dc.language.iso eng
dc.rights.uri http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/us/
dc.subject.lcsh Women -- Nicaragua -- Social conditions
dc.subject.lcsh Nicaragua -- Politics and government -- 1979-1990
dc.subject.lcsh Literacy -- Nicaragua -- History -- 20th century
dc.title Revolutionary Transgressions: Gendering the Nicaraguan Literacy Crusade
dc.type Thesis
dc.rights.access Haverford users only
dc.description.award The Wyatt MacGaffey Thesis Award in Anthropology


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