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Shorn Women: Gender and Punishment in Peru’s Shining Path

Thursday Lecture Series

dateOctober 7, 2021 timeThursday, 12:15pm EDT location The Heyman Center, Second Floor Common Room, Columbia University locationVirtual Event
  • This event will take place in person at the Heyman Center and virtually over Zoom. We ask that EVERYONE REGISTER VIA ZOOM, even those who plan to attend in person. Please read event description for further details.

  • The Society of Fellows and Heyman Center for the Humanities
  • Free and open to the public
  • Registration required. See details.
  • Each TLS event will have its own Zoom registration. If you wish to attend all events, please register for each lecture individually.

Childlike drawing of soldiers committing an atrocity in a village

This talk uses primarily oral history interviews with former Maoist rebels and Indigenous survivors to examine how the Shining Path punished women by cutting off their hair and what this action means for the aggressors and their victims surrounding the 1992 massacre in the Andean community of Huamanquiquia. Forcibly cutting women’s hair is often understood as an act of punishment, oppression, and public humiliation because of their gender, social status, or religious beliefs. However, the haircutting incident discussed here offers a further intricate account and implications for the insurgents and the community members. Interviews with former rebels display their contradictions about their actions and responsibilities. Some denied punishing women by cutting their hair; others admitted it, justifying that they deserved it for their liaisons with the enemy. Eventually, the rebels mitigated their action, reasoning that hair grows back, and these women carried on with their lives. While this action means sanctioning and dishonoring women for the rebels, it has a different understanding for their victims. I argue that forced haircutting was more than just a humiliating punishment for women. According to the Andean people’s worldview, cutting off women’s hair entails a crime against the human body-soul integrity, provoking endless suffering in the afterlife journey. From this perspective, forced haircutting means for Quechua-speaking women mutilation of their physical body with psychological, moral, social, and gender consequences on their lives, which extended to their children.

Attendance at SOF/Heyman events will follow Columbia-issued guidelines as they continue to develop. Given the current recommendations, we plan to allow in-person attendance for COLUMBIA AFFILIATES who have conformed with the on-campus guidelines. For everyone else, we're planning to livestream this event, allowing for virtual attendance.

This event also will be recorded. By being electronically present, you consent to the SOF/Heyman using such video for promotional purposes.

Please email [email protected] to request disability accommodations. Advance notice is necessary to arrange for some accessibility needs.