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Women in WarThe Micro-processes of Mobilization in El Salvador$
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Jocelyn Viterna

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199843633

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199843633.001.0001

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Recruiting a Guerrilla Army

Recruiting a Guerrilla Army

(p.63) 4 Recruiting a Guerrilla Army
Women in War

Jocelyn Viterna

Oxford University Press

Recruitment of activists is a perennial challenge in any social movement, and especially in movements where participation is “high risk”. Recruiting women into the FMLN guerrilla army was especially difficult: How could the FMLN convince women from patriarchal rural El Salvador to “bend gender” enough to take on the traditionally masculine task of making war? Using data from interviews and archives, this chapter describes both the official and the unofficial FMLN recruitment processes. It concludes that two narratives were central to the FMLN’s extraordinary mobilization success. First, capitalizing on the violence of the times, the FMLN successfully redefined many common identities to include the war effort, such that being a “youth” or a “campesino” became incomprehensible without situating that identity in relation to its wartime responsibilities. Second, the FMLN successfully narrated itself as the “good guys” in a bad situation, and thus worthy of widespread support. The chapter concludes that gender norms were central to the success of each of these recruitment narratives.

Keywords:   Recruitment, Narratives, Identity, High-risk Activism, Violence, Gender, Women, Guerrillas, FMLN, El Salvador

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