Trials without End: Political Violence and Democracy in Bolivia after World War II


Frederick Burkhardt Residential Fellowships for Recently Tenured Scholars




For residence at the John W. Kluge Center at the Library of Congress during academic year 2012-2013


This study uses the unprecedented trial of a Bolivian military regime for acts of state violence to rethink Latin America’s post-World War II democratic opening. It charts a “democratic” struggle against state repression, one that was influenced by local uses of (distorted) knowledge about Nazism and that culminated in the 1947 trial of an allegedly Nazi-fascist military regime. The trial raises two questions of contemporary significance: How do democratic societies define and judge political violence? Will “the people” dispense violence and justice, or only the state? By linking a close study of the trial with a social history of violence, the project illuminates the porous borders between democracy and authoritarianism at a defining moment for Latin America, that preceding Cold War dictatorships to come.