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The Encrypted State

During the military regime of Manuel Odría (1948-56), government officials in the Chachapoyas region of northern Peru came to regard themselves as under grave threat from an underground political movement that could not be seen with the naked eye.  Members of this movement (called APRA) insisted on going about their daily affairs masquerading as ordinary citizens, government officials believed, so it was extremely difficult to distinguish them from the citizenry at large.  On this basis, the Apristas had succeeded in penetrating the government’s many defenses, and had come to occupy positions of importance throughout government and civil society.  From this vantage point they were spreading their subversive message, corrupting everyone with whom they came in contact.  In order to protect themselves, government officials took an unprecedented step.  They took to communicating in coded messages.  These efforts to encrypt the state, however, proved unsuccessful. APRA seemed able to discover government plans despite efforts to keep official activities shrouded in secrecy.  This realization provoked deep paranoia among government officials, and ultimately precipitated a crisis of rule.



Participant: David NUGENT
Dept. of Anthropology | Emory University
Presentation: "Corruption as Exception?: Time, Affect and Concealment in 20th-Century Peru"