The Last Revolution: Shining Path and the War of the End of the World

Collaborative Group

Dr. Miguel La Serna, Professor Orin Starn


Cultural Anthropology and History


In the final two decades of the twentieth century, Shining Path launched a brutal war that claimed the lives of nearly 70,000 people and nearly toppled the Peruvian government. Peru's Shining Path insurgency led a whole generation of scholars, military experts, and policymakers to puzzle over this apparent contradiction and just what drove a small band of Maoist guerrillas to such violent extremes. Yet, the full story of the Peruvian insurrection has never been told. Focusing on the experiences of a handful of diverse characters who were thrust into the conflict and whose lives intersected in unanticipated ways, The Last Revolution sheds new light on the Marxist revolutionary politics that so shook the world across the twentieth century, and on the very old yet stubbornly persistent matter of mass violence and its role in human life. This collaborative project brings together the extensive archival experience of Miguel La Serna, a historian of twentieth-century Peru, and the fieldwork and ethnographic experience of Orin Starn, an anthropologist whose work has focused on social movements and Andean life. Working together, the authors have uncovered rich new material through conducting interviews with former Shining Path leaders and police officials and gathering thousands of documents to which previous researchers have not had access, such as the classified DINCOTE police archives and the so-called Megajuicio trial records. This study will result in a coauthored book that offers a comprehensive history of Shining Path and also takes their war as a means to track how belief in an ostensibly righteous cause can power frightening violence to its furthest extremes. Award period: July 1, 2016 through June 30, 2017