Bringing Memories in from the Margins: Inclusive Transitional Justice and Creative Memory Processes for Reconciliation in Colombia

Lead Research Organisation: University of Bristol
Department Name: School of Modern Languages


Over more than five decades of armed conflict in Colombia, the memories of marginalised communities and victims of conflict have been silenced or excluded from dominant accounts. These memories, and creation of spaces to acknowledge them, will be crucial to an inclusive reconciliation.

This project adopts a participatory, co-production methodology to support community members in Bajo Cauca, Florencia, Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, and Valledupar - some of Colombia's most marginalised municipalities - to produce creative pieces of memory work. Creating memory work means using the pain of the past to create something useful for working towards peace in the present and future. Working with a set of highly respected national partners (including the National Library of Colombia, the National Centre for Historical Memory, the Peaceful Route for Women, and the National Network of Memory Sites) the project will enable victims to develop the skills, networks, and confidence to share their memories on a national stage, including with Colombia's truth commission.

Acknowledgement of victims' experiences by the truth commission is fundamental to reconciliation in Colombia, but it will not and cannot be the only space where reconciliation takes place. Victims' memories also need to be heard and acknowledged in everyday spaces of learning about conflict and peace, including in schools and online. In partnership with the National Centre for Historical Memory, the project will train over 200 teachers to use memory work for peace education and it will produce a set of resources for use in classrooms. In partnership with the project, the National Library of Colombia will design and host a digital resource that will effectively share the creative memory work of these marginalised communities with a wide audience nationally and internationally.

We bring together an interdisciplinary team of researchers and practitioners who share a commitment to understanding and enabling the possibilities for a more inclusive process of reconciliation in Colombia. The team of researchers from the Universidad Nacional de Colombia and the University of Bristol works across the disciplines of history, education, area studies, politics, media studies, and feminism and has expertise in co-production and participatory methodologies, the use of digital technology to enhance research findings, as well of leading research projects in Colombia and Latin America focused on memory, reconciliation and education. The partnerships at the core of the project are based on existing and well-established relationships with leading organisations in Colombia working to promote memory and reconciliation at local, regional and national levels.

The project works in three strands, first memories from the margins will support between 1,000 - 10,000 people from some of the most marginalised parts of Colombia to create transformative memory works, enabling individual and community processes of reconciliation and developing lasting skills for public participation. Physical objects created by the project will remain in the local municipalities. The second, reconciliation, shares this memory work on a national scale, including with Colombia's truth commission and in the nation's schools. The final strand, lessons from Colombia's transitional justice consolidates the work in Colombia, producing lasting digital resources, and shares findings, methodologies and lessons in Colombia, the UK and internationally.

The project will contribute to a sustainable, inclusive reconciliation in Colombia. In doing so, it will also generate important knowledge about the potential for localised processes of reconciliation to be connected with formal initiatives like truth commissions and shared in schools using co-production and digital methodologies. These lessons will be valuable for global policy discussions around transitional justice and for academic debates across our disciplines.

Planned Impact

4000 characters for Impact Summary for J-es

The impact programme of this project will put memory and reconciliation at the forefront of local, national and international dialogue. It will enable groups working in marginalized municipalities and existing practitioners to learn from each other and to maximize the reach of their message by refining their methodologies and disseminating their best practices. A stronger, more networked and educated movement for memory, reconciliation and inclusive development will be better able to negotiate the difficult political future that awaits. This will contribute towards the creation of a more inclusive society with citizens who are more at ease with their fractious and violent pasts, and thereby have direct effects upon the capacity for more equitable development, the reduction of conflict and the prevention of the re-emergence of political violence. The lessons from this project will contribute with methodological reflections and know-how to facilitate the empowerment of marginalized groups by providing space for the emergence of diverse memories and inclusive narratives for critical reconciliation.

With the purpose of fostering an inclusive transition, we acknowledge how essential it is to amplify the voices from local initiatives working with marginalized populations (indigenous, women, youth, rural). These initiatives have in most cases remained isolated from one another, impeding the exchange of know-how and knowledge. As a result, their chances of having an impact in the struggles over the narratives of the war, and therefore in creating the conditions for reconciliation, have until now been very limited.

By means of its interdisciplinary approach, and by working with and through long-standing research partnerships, the project therefore aims to impact three broad groups:

Marginalized Memories: Impact will be aimed at social groups working at the local level for reconciliation in marginalized municipalities of Colombia, including in the Sierra Nevada, Cauca, Caqueta and Boyaca. We will introduce them to each other's innovative creative methodologies, in order to produce a critical space for reflection, to energize their efforts and to produce new and unexpected collaborations. By providing expertise, resources, guidance and the opportunity for networking and collaborative learning, the project will strengthen these marginalized participants in the reconciliation process.

Reconciliation: Impact will be aimed at organizations working at the national level for reconciliation in Colombia. Our partners from the Ruta Pacifica, Red de Lugares de la Memoria, Biblioteca Nacional and Centro Nacional de Memoria Histórica are already some of the major participants in debates about how the historical past should be remembered as Colombia implements its peace agreements. This project will enable these institutions, and the people who work within and with them, to learn how to overcome the obstacles that prevent marginalized memories from being incorporated into centrally-directed reconciliation programmes and the educational curriculum.

Transitional Justice: Impact will be aimed at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Colombia and stakeholders in related processes elsewhere. The research will support the Colombian Truth and Reconciliation Commission in ensuring that marginalized memories are heard and acted upon. Beyond this, it is expected that the research findings will feed into future Truth and Reconciliation commissions elsewhere, sharing best practice from Colombia and establishing a model for inclusive reconciliation in post-conflict societies elsewhere in the world.

The specifics of how these impacts will be achieved are detailed in the separate Pathways to Impact document.
Title Entre memorias e historias Podcast 
Description Eight 45 minute episodes of a podcast, Entre Memorias e Historias, released on Spotify, Youtube, itunes and so on, discussing themes of history, memory and politics. 
Type Of Art Artefact (including digital) 
Year Produced 2021 
Impact It has built networks between the NGO Rodeemos el Dialogo, the PI and presenter Professor Matthew Brown, and the interviewees from around Colombia. 
Title Peace Festival Film 
Description It is a film about the project. 
Type Of Art Film/Video/Animation 
Year Produced 2018 
Impact It disseminated the research findings, and encouraged participation in the follow-on project. 
Description The process of establishing the truth about the armed conflict in Colombia is not an easy one. Our partners, involved in the production of historical memory among the country's most marginalized communities, are under considerable stress and have many obstacles to overcome. Our project, working together in horizontal ways with a strong ethics of co-production, is having a major impact. International collaboration with the implementation of the peace accords in Colombia is welcomed by our partners, and this international partnership will provide a major support for our shared research agenda. We are now working to make widely available the memory work produced by our partners through this project. We are working directly with the Truth Commission in Colombia, and will continue to weave our work into theirs as they publish their final report in July 2022 and disseminate it through 2022-23-24. Our Follow-On Funding, Truth from the Margins, has been significantly affected by the pandemic, and we hope to yield its fruits in 2022-23.
Exploitation Route We will be seeking every possible funding opportunity to secure further support for our partners, particularly the CEV, given that this is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to conduct research into the history of armed conflict in Colombia, through our partnerships established in this and previous projects. We have been fortunate enough to secure funding through Research England QR allocated at the University of Bristol to expand these activities, and most recently an AHRC Follow-On Award 'Truth in the Margins', which runs until August 2022. We have an application to the University of Bristol's Brigstow Institute pending. We will continue to work with other similar projects to ensure sharing of best practice. We have an interactive webpage under construction which will be an excellent way of sharing our findings. We expect this to go live in May 2022.
Sectors Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Creative Economy,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Education,Leisure Activities, including Sports, Recreation and Tourism,Government, Democracy and Justice,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections,Security and Diplomacy

Description Having been granted a no-cost extension because of COVID-19, this project is now nearing completion. It has had a direct impact upon the workings of the Truth Commission (CEV) in Colombia, in particular the Gender Working Group, with whom we have established a close working relationship around their collection of testimonies. We hope and intend this partnership to continue throughout the operation of the CEV and through the dissemination of its report. At the grassroots level, our partners through the National Library, Ruta Pacifica, Rodeemos el Dialogo and the Red de Lugares de Memoria have all reported strengthened local capacity for memory and truth processes, as a direct result of our project. The Truth Commissioners have expressed their enormous gratitude for our ongoing support and input into their research. We are continuing to partner with them to develop memory work including films, podcasts, workshops and written texts, to be released through 2022 and 2023.
First Year Of Impact 2019
Sector Creative Economy,Education,Government, Democracy and Justice
Impact Types Cultural,Policy & public services

Description CEV
Geographic Reach South America 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
Description Influenced pedagogy strategy of the Colombian truth commission
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a advisory committee
Description Ongoing support of the Truth Commission and memory initiatives in Colombia
Geographic Reach South America 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a national consultation
Impact Evidence of impact is still at a preliminary stage but we know from our partners' feedback that our research is having a significant effect in supporting key stakeholders in the peace and reconciliation process. One example of this is through our collaboration with the Ruta Pacifica and the Truth Commission in Colombia, as evidenced in a international event livestreamed on 8 March 2021, available on the link below. The Truth Commission will produce its final report in November 2021, and we are looking to support them in the final stages of research analysis and dissemination over the next couple of years.
Description PRAXIS Report Transforming Conflict and Displacement through Arts and Humanities
Geographic Reach Multiple continents/international 
Policy Influence Type Contribution to new or Improved professional practice
Impact These are all detailed in the PRAXIS report.
Description Education, Justice and Memory Network (EDJAM)
Amount £1,999,980 (GBP)
Funding ID AH/T007842/1 
Organisation Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 03/2020 
End 03/2024
Description Global Challenges Research Fund Pump-Priming Call
Amount £50,000 (GBP)
Organisation University of Bristol 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 03/2018 
End 07/2018
Description Truth on the Margins: Bringing Memories to Support Transitional Justice in Colombia
Amount £149,950 (GBP)
Funding ID AH/V012436/1 
Organisation Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 02/2021 
End 08/2022
Description University of Bristol Global Impact Acceleration Account
Amount £20,000 (GBP)
Organisation University of Bristol 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 09/2018 
End 03/2019
Title Video Guide on Co-Production Methods 
Description With Quipu we developed new ways of working across our team globally. We produced a Video Guide, at the request of the AHRC, to explain how we did this and what lessons might be adopted by other teams contemplating similar research questions. 
Type Of Material Model of mechanisms or symptoms - human 
Year Produced 2020 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact Just published in spring 2020. 
Description Biblioteca Nacional de Colombia 
Organisation National Library of Colombia
Country Colombia 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution We worked together to co-design the Peace Festival and its dissemination activities. In 2017/18 we worked together to design the Bringing Memories in from the Margins. Since then we have been working together on the project.
Collaborator Contribution We worked together to co-design the Peace Festival and its dissemination activities. The Biblioteca Nacional organized, as part of this project, a workshop in the Montes de Maria region of Colombia discussing the role of libraries in bringing peace. In 2018/19 the BNC is working to deliver one strand of the MEMPAZ project, in the Sierra Nevada region.
Impact Montes de Maria workshop, involving history and social science. Full details elsewhere on form. Preliminary outputs from the MEMPAZ project were collected at a meeting in Colombia in October 2019, and we are in the process of research data analysis at the time of writing.
Start Year 2016
Description Ruta Pacifica 
Organisation Peaceful Women's Route
Country Colombia 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution Ruta were the partners on the Peace Festival. We have worked to disseminate their work on the Truth Commission in Colombia. We have worked together to design the MEMPAZ project. We are working with Ruta to coordinate work with the Truth Commission (2019).
Collaborator Contribution Their presence and networks enabled the participation of a great diversity of organizations in the event. Their director and two colleagues attended the Peace Festival, running workshop sessions and providing valuable experience. In April 2018 Alejandra Miller Restrepo, from Ruta, visited Bristol as part of a GCRF event. She is now one of Colombia's Truth Commissioners, and has been central to the coordination of MEMPAZ with the Truth Commission, and to enabling the closer integration of MEMPAZ activities with AHRC-funded commissioned research with the Truth Commission on Gender, Truth and the Making of History.
Impact The Truth Commission began its operations in coordination with our team in February 2019, so are beginning to take place. Full reporting will be listed for the next round of Researchfish. We will be meeting in Colombia in June 2019 to assess progress so far.
Start Year 2016
Description Ruta Pacifica de las Mujeres 
Organisation Peaceful Women's Route
Country Colombia 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution This partnership results from the ongoing collaboration between Maria Teresa Pinto (MEMPAZ CoInvestigator) and Ruta Pacifica. Thanks to their existing relationship, Ruta Pacifica has been a key partner for both MEMPAZ and 'Transitional Justice as Education', shaping project directions and leading activities.
Collaborator Contribution Transitional Justice as Education: Ruta Pacifica have played a key role in shaping the project and its objectives and in organising project activities in Colombia. MEMPAZ: Ruta Pacifica leads memory work in Antioquia, working with women in the communities of Caceres and Caucasia, both of which have been very affected by conflict and violence, to produce memory work using theatre.
Impact All outputs reported in MEMPAZ and 'Transitional Justice as Education'
Start Year 2019
Description Civil society and the truth commission's gender working group - closed discussion 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact In July 2019, Representatives from leading women's rights and LGTBQI+ civil society organisations in Colombia met with members of the Colombian truth commission's gender working group, and with MEMPAZ team members, Maria Tersesa Pinto OCampo, Martin Suarez, Fabio Lopez and Matthew Brown to discuss the approach and strategies of the gender working group and to ensure a broad coalition of support for it from across civil society.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
Description Colombia Week (October 2019) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact In October 2019, the University of Bristol hosted 'Colombia Week 2019: Truth, Memory and Diaspora: The Seeds of Peace in Colombia'
The description of the event is below. It was very attended, with all event registration pages selling out. Colombia week helped to build a strong community in and beyond Bristol supporting the peace process in Colombia and raised awareness about the ongoing work of both MEMPAZ and 'Transitional Justice as Education'.

Colombia is at a crucial crossroads in the implementation of its peace accord. This week of events offers a vital opportunity to reflect upon the innovations of and challenges for Colombia's truth commission and the legacies of the country's long tradition of research in historical memory.
Guests include Carlos Beristain, Truth Commissioner; Gonzalo Sanchez, Former Director of the National Centre for Historical Memory; and Alejandra Coll, Gender Working Group, Truth Commission.

Wed 16 October: What does it mean to be a feminist and learning truth commission? (with Alejandra Coll - CEV Gender Working Group - and Ana Cristina Navarro - CEV Pedagogy Director)
Thu 17 October: Memory, truth and the challenges for peace in Colombia (with Gonzalo Sanchez, former director the National Centre for Historical Memory)
Fri 18 October: The Truth Commission and the Colombian Diaspora (with Carlos Beristain, Truth Commissioner, CEV, and members of the UK testimony collection team)
Sat 19 October: El Testigo (Film Screening with comments from the Director)
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
Description Engagement activities on MEMPAZ 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The MEMPAZ project is a multi-site, multi-disciplinary investigation of processes of memory production in Colombia. Its activities began in October 2018. We have our first physical meeting of all the partners (including the Biblioteca Nacional de Colombia, Ruta Pacifica, etc) in June 2019. We have asked our partners to provide updates on progress at this encounter. We therefore do not have all the detail to submit here as to what has happened in terms of engagement, given that the entire project is based around and justified by engaging with marginalized communities on the periphery of Colombian political life. We will be able to provide a fuller list of activities so far in March 2020, and have some sense of the impact achieved, most obviously with the CEV but also at grassroots level, by March 2021.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018,2019