Here Our Culture is Hard: Stories of Domestic Violence from a Mayan Community in Belize

By Laura J. McCluskyUniversity of Texas Press 2001 ISBN 0-292-75249-0

Here Our Culture Is Hard: Stories of Domestic Violence From A Mayan Community In Belize is a path-breaking ethnography that offers colorful insights into the complexities of the lives of Mopan Maya women living in Belize. Author Laura J. McClusky approaches a topic that many academics have encountered in Latin America, but on which few have focused their research: domestic violence. She questions why anthropologists often treat this problem as a “closed topic,” limiting our understanding of it both in the United States and abroad. McClusky opens this topic for scholarly analysis by combining rich ethnographic narratives and a powerfully argued analysis of the realities of the Mopan Maya women she worked with.

McClusky’s work offers a fresh look at how anthropologists can present research in order to focus on people rather than theory. In each narrative and analysis, McClusky places herself and the women she worked with front and center in order to create a humanistic perspective. The grabbing narratives engage the reader and illuminate the distinct experiences of several Maya women by looking at the ways in which they survive, avoid, and escape spousal abuse.

After each touching narrative, McClusky analyzes factors in each case that led to, or prevented, domestic violence. She looks at how such factors as modernization, gender, family structure, and traditional customs affect the way that Maya women resist, avoid, and deal with abuse from their husbands. In order to create a context for the book, the author gives a lifelike explanation of life in the village and a description of the conditions there. These recurrent themes help the reader understand the decisions of the women described in each narrative.

Here Our Culture Is Hard is a well-written and innovative work that forges new ways of looking at and understanding domestic violence. This book is an important contribution not only to readers interested in studying domestic violence and gender relations, but also for any anthropologist searching for alternative ways of presenting research. The unique combination of narrative ethnography and standard anthropological analysis provides a perspective on violence that is both intellectually persuasive and moving. Here Our Culture Is Hard is a powerfully argued ethnography that is both mind-opening and original.

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