Life and the Pedagogy of Counterinsurgency, 1961–64

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This article investigates the role Life magazine played in explaining Cold War counterinsurgency ventures to its readers. After examining Life’s general strategy for emotionally enlisting readers in Third World counterinsurgency, the article focuses on how two photo essays about Bolivia—Dmitri Kessel’s 1961 “A Tormented, Grim Land” and Michael Rougier’s 1964 “Hostages of a Mob of Miners"—formulated these counterinsurgency tactics. The first set of photographs portrays rural indigenous Bolivians performing an ideal of national belonging through developmentalist striving, while excluding militant miners from the narrative of national incorporation and progress. The second essay reincorporates the economically disempowered miners back into the nation while imagining Indians and women as threatening their peaceful reincorporation. Together these photo spreads secure the division between miners and their indigenous neighbors, framing the Bolivian state’s U.S.-sponsored attempts to fracture old left-wing revolutionary peasant-worker coalitions as altruistic pedagogical measures designed to help the country modernize.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)219-238
Number of pages20
JournalPhotography and Culture
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 10 Feb 2016


  • Bolivia
  • counterinsurgency
  • indigeneity
  • Life magazine
  • modernization
  • US imperialism


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