Chapter one serves as the book's introduction and sets up the narrative arc for the book that unpacks assumptions about what we think we know about El Salvador. It provides a brief review of Salvadoran history, the postwar ethnographic context of Chalatenango—a former war zone—maps out the unfolding impact of migration, and introduces the importance of thinking about generation. Through an attention to anthropological responsibility in longitudinal research, Chapter one offers an analysis of the longue durée of postwar by focusing on a diversity of war stories. These point to a periodization of "Before" war, postwar, and migration. Focusing on narratives and excavating an archive of memories, the chapter also points to the emergence of the 1.5 insurgent generation, the now young adult children of the forgotten former rank-and-file revolutionaries, who are remaking transnational families and offer pathways of hope for our global futures.
Chapter two offers an ethnographic account of violencia encifrada, a concept coined to refer to a codified, encrypted violence made possible by numbers that are entangled with storytelling and memory. The chapter begins by juxtaposing the humanitarian crisis and the surge of unaccompanied minors that became visible in the summer of 2014 against another set of numbers—the epidemic murder rate in postwar El Salvador. How have these embodied numbers come to represent postwar El Salvador as a resoundingly bloody, terrifying, and insecure place more than twenty-five years after war? How are these numbers lived? The focus is on how the numbers circulate in nonlinear, eruptive ways and how they come to hold the promise of truths about El Salvador. The chapter argues for a more radical sense of what counts, and it suggests that we consider the unexpected practices of forgiveness that can emerge in new spaces.
Chapter three explores how bodies in and out of war comprise another node of El Salvador's "curated story," to borrow from Sujatha Fernandes. In this framing, the longue durée of postwar emerges through stories of embodied injury and the making of the Salvadoran "chronic body." The chapter examines ethnographic stories around injury, trauma, and care that link wartime narratives of agency and pain with the hardships and joys of making a life in the United States. Through longitudinal breadth, the chapter juxtaposes untapped narratives collected during fieldwork in the 1990s against contemporary stories that circulate in person and on social media as image and text. These stories bring into conversation theories of disability, debility, and Jasbir Puar's "right to maim." Theorizing in Spanish through the concept of debilidad, the chapter develops an argument around an ethics of collective care as central to El Salvador's longue durée.
Building on Tim O'Brien's invocation of the violence surrounding "the things they carried," chapter four offers a reading of the role of objects and the affective act of carrying across contexts. The crux of the chapter honors the experiences of deportation through a focus on the materiality of deportation, on the things that los retornados take care to bring back with them—an archive of the returned that asks us to hold in tension memories and futures. In accompanying a young woman unpacking her suitcase, we can ask, what do these objects tell us about entanglements with borders and the state and with forms of violence, chronic lives, and aspirations—with the very documentation of the unauthorized? Papers and things become prompts for narrative unfoldings, and the making of a counterarchive complicates the contemporary Salvadoran call for the "reintegration" of a different kind of postwar subject.
Chapter five plays with the periodization of the before and after of war, of peace, and of migration, which is hegemonically framed as never an after of violence and injustice. Returning to questions around anthropological commitments to truth making, it develops an analysis around Salvadoran after-stories, about how El Salvador continues to be framed in that longue durée of postwar across generations. Rather than arguing for a direct through-line of militancy, the chapter invokes how a radical collective ethics of care and practices of forgiveness rub up against all that still needs to be reckoned with—that weight of carrying (on) through the longue durée of postwar. The chapter turns explicitly to the 1.5 insurgent generation, who were socialized through the war and its aftermaths, and to how in different ways they sustain a collective radical Chalateco project across borders.