What lies ahead for Venezuela after the death of president Hugo Chávez? To understand Venezuela's history, culture, and politics at this crucial crossroads, check out these books.
We Created Chávez: A People’s History of the Venezuelan Revolution by George Ciccariello-Maher will be out this May. It provides a broad, nuanced account of Chávez’s rise to power and the years of activism that preceded it. Based on interviews with grassroots organizers, former guerrillas, members of neighborhood militias, and government officials, Ciccariello-Maherpresents a new history of Venezuelan political activism, one told from below.
In Who Can Stop the Drums?: Urban Social Movements in Chávez’s Venezuela, Sujatha Fernandes also looks at Chávez’s poor supporters in the barrios of Caracas. Her widely-praised book portrays everyday life and politics in the shantytowns of Caracas through accounts of community-based radio, barrio
assemblies, and popular fiestas, and the many interviews she conducted with activists and government officials. Listen here to a recent interview with Fernandes and Miguel Tinker Salas on KALW's "Your Call."
In The Enduring Legacy: Oil, Culture, and Society in Venezuela, historian Miguel Tinker Salas examines the role of oil in Venezuela's economy. He traces the historyof the oil industry’s rise in Venezuela from the beginning of the twentieth century, paying particular attention to the experiences and perceptions of industry employees, both foreign and Venezuelan. His interest in how oil suffused the consciousness of Venezuela is personal: Tinker Salas was born and raised in one of its oil camps.
Venezuela’s Bolivarian Democracy, edited by David Smilde, Daniel Hellinger, brings together a variety of perspectives on participation and democracy in Venezuela. An interdisciplinary group of contributors focuses on the everyday lives of Venezuelans, examining the forms of participation that have emerged in communal councils, cultural activities, blogs, community media, and several other forums.
Looking much further back at Venezuela's history is a special issue of the journal Ethnohistory, Colonial Transformations in Venezuela: Anthropology, Archaeology, and History, edited by Berta E. Pérez. Contributors employ the tools of history, anthropology and ethnology to address the relationship between the colonizer and the colonized in Venezuela. It examines various aspects of the Venezuelan oral-based cultures—including religion, gender, and trade—and argue that the
indigenous and black populations were never "cultural islands"—neither before nor after European penetration.