Modernity at Gunpoint

Firearms, Politics, and Culture in Mexico and Central America

This engaging, well written, and richly researched book points to exciting new avenues in scholarship, blazing the path for future scholars to think about Mexico and Central America in tandem, or to unpack the multivalent resonances of a single object.
Revista de Estudios Hispánicos
Winner, 2019 LASA Best Book in the Humanities (Mexico section)

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2019 Best Book in the Humanities (Mexico section) of the Latin American Studies Association

Modernity at Gunpoint provides the first study of the political and cultural significance of weaponry in the context of major armed conflicts in Mexico and Central America. In this highly original study, Sophie Esch approaches political violence through its most direct but also most symbolic tool: the firearm. In novels, songs, and photos of insurgency, firearms appear as artifacts, tropes, and props, through which artists negotiate conceptions of modernity, citizenship, and militancy. Esch grounds her analysis in important re-readings of canonical texts by Martín Luis Guzman, Nellie Campobello, Omar Cabezas, Gioconda Belli, Sergio Ramirez, Horacio Castellanos Moya, and others. Through the lens of the iconic firearm, Esch relates the story of the peasant insurgencies of the Mexican Revolution, the guerrilla warfare of the Sandinista Revolution, and the ongoing drug-related wars in Mexico and Central America, to highlight the historical, cultural, gendered, and political significance of weapons in this volatile region.

about the author

Sophie Esch

Sophie Esch is an assistant professor of Latin American literature and culture at Rice University.

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Sophie Esch