(Un)Stitching the Subjects of Colombia's Reconciliation Process

Lead Research Organisation: Aberystwyth University
Department Name: International Politics

Abstract

This project explores the subjectivities constructed by ex-combatants in the process of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) in Colombia and how these ex-combatants are, in turn, perceived by other groups in society and specifically in the communities where they now settle. In order to study the transformation of both ex-combatants' self-understandings and outsider perceptions of these, the project employs a qualitative approach that combines narrative biographical interviews with textile narratives. This innovative method consists in the running of textile workshops during which first ex-combatants and then civilian community representatives, individually or collectively, create sewn wall-hangings to express their memories, self-understandings, and hopes for the future. In this approach, oral and textile narratives are not merely data to inform the analysis of ex-combatants' role in the process of reconciliation and social integration in Colombia, but, as a methodological intervention strategy, are intended to actively contribute to this process. A further key component of this methodological strategy are its diverse means for the dissemination of research results. Findings are disseminated not only through the textile workshops, but also through exhibitions at the local, national, and international level and through a digital platform. As a repository and dissemination tool, this platform is planned to be expanded to collect oral and textile narratives of the Colombian conflict produced in other sites in the future.

Planned Impact

The project aims to impact three different groups of social actors in the following ways:

1) Impact on the former combatants of FARC and ELN:
The project team will work with former combatants of armed groups who are in a DDR process in order not only to chart their multifaceted subjectivities, but also to spark and accompany their process of self-revaluation as civilian members of society. The research methods used - narrative biographical interviews and textile narratives - will enable participants to articulate their multiple stories that cross individual and collective experiences, thereby contributing to the process of resignification of ex-combatants' subjectivities as an important foundation for successful reintegration and societal reconciliation.

2) Impact on communities and municipal and regional level:
The ex-combatants' textile narratives will be shown in four exhibitions at local and regional levels in places identified as transitory reintegration zones with a history of significant guerrilla presence. The aim of these exhibitions is to spark debate among the recipient communities of ex-combatants in order to chart dominant narratives, unearth alternative ones and, ultimately, re-signify and incorporate alternative subjectivities into the local social dynamics in which former combatants now find themselves. Specifically, the project team will work with key civil society representatives of local and regional communities to enter into dialogue with the ex-combatants' narratives. These key actors can be expected to have a multiplying influence on learning processes and social dynamics in their localities, and making them partners in the textile narrative production in response to ex-combatants' textile narratives is therefore a key element in order to generate and expand the dialogues necessary for social reconciliation.

3) Impact on reconciliation at the national and international level:
A major challenge for reconciliation in a post-conflict context is to expand dialogue and understanding achieved among social actors who are in direct everyday interaction to those members of society who are less directly exposed to the DDR process. A third direct impact activity will therefore consist in the organisation of an integrated exhibition that combines, and creates a dialogue between, the textile narratives of persons in the process of DDR and those of local civil society representatives. Exhibited in at least one major urban centre in Colombia (e.g. Bogota), this integrated exhibition aims to foster greater awareness of the challenges and possibilities of the reconciliation process among audiences who are distant from the local settings of reintegration and whose imaginaries are mostly informed by media representations only.The expected impact is a change in attitudes towards both former combatants and rural civilian populations in former conflict zones, and demonstrate alternative ways of narrating the past and remembering collectively. An additional exhibition in the UK is expected to impact on visitors in the form of raising awareness of the intricacies of the Colombian peace process & promoting alternative narratives among UK citizens and Colombians and other Latin Americans living in the UK.
Finally, we will design, development and launch of a digital platform to connect researchers, academics, victims of the armed conflict, people involved in the DDR process, activists, human rights defenders and citizens interested in issues such as historical and cultural memory, armed conflict, mental health care, peace building and reconciliation throughout Colombia and internationally. With this digital strategy, the project seeks to facilitate communication between various sectors of Colombian society, encouraging the construction of affective solidarities to strengthen reconciliation processes.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description The state of the peace process in Colombia - fieldwork impressions 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact I was invited to give a talk about my fieldwork impressions about the current state of the Colombian peace process in a colleague's module on contemporary politics in Latin America. I spoke to c.25 students about the challenges to peace that we encountered during the first leg of project fieldwork, before we engaged in a lively debate about problems of power in the region. One student approached me afterwards to get advice on how to secure an internship in Colombia to work towards development and justice.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018