Presentation Details

The Second International Conference on New Directions in the Humanities

Stolen Glory: David Stoll and Rigoberta Menchu: Truth and Subjectivity. A View from Peru

Dr. William P. Mitchell.

Taking on the mission of deconstructing Rigoberta Menchú, David Stoll has tried to demonstrate that her famous autobiography, known in English as I, Rigoberta Menchú, is false in several significant respects. He claims (and in many respects establishes) that Rigoberta Menchú did not witness many of the events that she claimed to have seen, that she was not (and is not) a monolingual Quiché peasant, and among other matters, that her book was written to foster a political agenda rather than to illustrate a life. Nonetheless, Stoll himself has written a polemical book rather than the neutral account that he claims for himself. This paper both analyzes Stoll’s account and uses testimonials from refugees (desplazados) from the Shining Path war in Peru to place Rigoberta Menchú’s account in larger perspective. Many of these Peruvian testimonials are different versions of the same event taken from the same persons but collected several years apart. These versions differ in significant ways from one another, reflecting that memory is not the simple replay of a tape (as Stoll seems to believe) but rather the reconstruction of events in a context that partly determines content. People construct their narratives for an audience. The implications of these data for ethnographic inquiry and the nature of “truth” are explored, as are the problems of translation and the different standards of judgement people employ in making oral and written statements. The ethical and professional implications of the controversy are also examined.


Dr. William P. Mitchell  (United States)
Dean of Humanities and Social Sciences and Professor of Anthropology
Wayne D. McMurray School of the Humanities and Social Sciences
Monmouth University

WILLIAM P. MITCHELL, currently Dean of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at Monmouth University, is also Freed Professor in the Social Sciences and Professor of Anthropology. He has also taught at Brooklyn College (City University of New York) and the Universidad Catolica, Lima, Peru, where he was a Visiting Professor of Anthropology. He graduated Magna Cum Laude from Brooklyn College where he was elected a member of Phi Beta Kappa and Sigma Xi. He received his doctorate from the University of Pittsburgh and studied the Quechua language and Latin American Studies at Cornell University. Professor Mitchell has carried out extensive research in the Andes, working both in the highlands and coast of Peru on social change and the ecological and economic pressures on peasant society. His recent research has focused on economic migration, the Shining Path guerrilla movement, and political refugees. In addition to published articles in the American Anthropologist and Current Anthropology, among other journals.

  • David Stoll
  • Rigoberta Menchu
  • Guatemala
  • Peru
  • Narratives
  • Truth
  • Displaced People
Person as Subject
  • Menchu, Rigoberta Stoll, David

(Virtual Presentation, English)