(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

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Title "(Des)tejiendo miradas", San José de Leon, Mutatá, Colombia, 30 September - 5 October 
Description The exhibition "(Des)tejiendo miradas" showcased biographies of former members of the demobilised Colombian guerrilla group FARC and their new rural neighbours, through multi-layered stories rendered in words and threads. Textile books produced in collective embroidery workshops in rural communities in the regions of Mutatá and Dabeiba as well a in the city of Medellín spoke of shared experiences of the (post-)conflict: of the yearning for home, reunions with family members, and the importance of one's roots, of trust, commitments, and transformations, of children's experiences of the conflict, and of hopes and uncertainties. 
Type Of Art Artistic/Creative Exhibition 
Year Produced 2019 
Impact The textile narratives were first publicly exhibited in a local exhibition in the village of San José de León village, one of the major fieldwork locations of this project. It had approximately 200 visitors, among them villagers, people from neighbouring communities, school classes, and representatives of national and international organisations. The exhibition of textile narratives showed the potential to encourage reflection, understanding and even solidarity among its visitors, as expressed in interviews. 
URL https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MdORWGESHHI
 
Title "(Des)tejiendo miradas", University of Antioquia, Apartadó campus, Colombia, 7-11 October 
Description The exhibition "(Des)tejiendo mirada" showcased biographies of former members of the demobilised Colombian guerrilla group FARC and their new rural neighbours, through multi-layered stories rendered in words and threads. Textile books produced in collective embroidery workshops in rural communities in the regions of Mutatá and Dabeiba as well a in the city of Medellín spoke of shared experiences of the (post-)conflict: of the yearning for home, reunions with family members, and the importance of one's roots, of trust, commitments, and transformations, of children's experiences of the conflict, and of hopes and uncertainties. 
Type Of Art Artistic/Creative Exhibition 
Year Produced 2019 
Impact After a first exhibition in one of the fieldwork sites, the textile narratives were publicly exhibited in a local exhibition in the Apartadó campus of the University of Antioquia. It had approximately 150 visitors, among them students, academics, people from local communities in the Apartadó region, and representatives of national and international organisations. The exhibition of the textile narratives showed the potential to encourage reflection, understanding and even solidarity among its visitors, as expressed in interviews and textile pieces made in reaction to the exhibition. 
URL https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MdORWGESHHI
 
Title "Puntadas", Parque Educativo, Dabeiba, Antioquia, Colombia, 18-28 November 
Description In this exhibition, our project exhibited textile books composed of pieces made by children and some of their parents in the villages of San José de Leon (Mutatá) and Llano Grande (Dabeiba). Some of them are the children of former FARC combatants, others the children of members of the rural communities. Among the children's textile stories, there is a common narrative thread. showing little difference between the children of former FARC fighters and of community members, their stories speak of optimism and welcome, love and idyllic landscapes, in short: of their community as a space in which they live jointly. 
Type Of Art Artistic/Creative Exhibition 
Year Produced 2019 
Impact This exhibition had approximately 100 visitors, among them the children, parents and teachers from Llano Grande who had made the exhibited textiles and who were invited for a specially programmed viewing of the exhibition. The exhibition of textile narratives showed the potential to encourage reflection, understanding and even solidarity among its visitors, as expressed in personal conversations. 
 
Title "Reminiscencias - Puntadas", CreaLab, University of Antioquia, Medellin, Colombia, 6-20 November 
Description A joint exhibition in which the textile narratives created in the framework of this project were brought into conversation with photographies by Christine Delory-Momberger (France) and Gabriel Vieira Posada (Colombia). In this exhibition, our project exhibited textile books composed of pieces made by children and some of their parents in the villages of San José de Leon (Mutatá) and Llano Grande (Dabeiba), some of them children of former FARC combatants, others of members of the rural communities. Among the children's textile stories, there is a common narrative thread. showing little difference between the children of former FARC fighters and of community members, their stories speak of optimism and welcome, love and idyllic landscapes, in short: of their community as a space in which they live jointly. 
Type Of Art Artistic/Creative Exhibition 
Year Produced 2019 
Impact This exhibition had approximately 200 visitors, among them participants of a conference for school teachers in the Department of Antioquia. The exhibition of textile narratives showed the potential to encourage reflection, understanding and even solidarity among its visitors, as expressed in entries into the visitor book laid out in the exhibition. 
URL https://www.facebook.com/crealab.udea/photos/a.1000668566644143/2748043785239937/?type=3&theater
 
Title Textile books (Des)tejiendo miradas 
Description As part of this research project, c.150 individual and collective textile artworks have been produced by demobilised combatants of the Colombian guerrilla group FARC, their relatives and neighbours, and other groups and communities in Colombia, among them shantytown residents in Medellin and visitors of the project exhibitions. Textile books produced in collective embroidery workshops in rural communities in the regions of Mutatá and Dabeiba as well as in the city of Medellín spoke of shared experiences of the (post-) conflict: of the yearning for home, reunions with family members, and the importance of one's roots, of trust, commitments, and transformations, of children's experiences of the conflict, and of hopes and uncertainties. 
Type Of Art Artwork 
Year Produced 2019 
Impact The pieces were shown in four exhibitions in 2019, in San José de Leon (Mutatá), Apartadó, Medellin and Dabeiba, which demonstrated the potential of textile artwork to encourage reflection, understanding and even solidarity among its visitors, as expressed in interviews, textile responses to the exhibitions and entries into a visitors' book. 
 
Description The project "(Un)Stitching the Subjects of Colombia´s Reconciliation Process" has been developed in two rural locations - the village San José de León in Mutatá and Llano Grande in Dabeiba -, making use of an approach that combines biographical narratives, narrative practices and textile narratives. Ex-combatants of the FARC-EP, their families and members of neighbouring communities have participated in the research process, which has explored hegemonic, alternate, preferred and silenced subjectivities from the point of view of their different perspectives. Themes that have arisen so far from this research relate to the family, emotionality and affectivity, the construction of places and territories, and to an emerging sense of what peacebuilding and reconciliation means as seen from rural sites. The fieldwork has also allowed us to identify the relationships that are being woven in these ex-combatants´ hamlets and families, with the neighbouring communities and the wider region, and which suggest a number of difficulties that FARC ex-combatants face when trying to incorporate the logics of civilian life into the different areas of their daily lives. This fieldwork has been complemented with a postgraduate student's work with the women´s organization Convivamos in Medellin, in order to also recognize the urban representations and stories that complexify and problematize the possibility of reconciliation.
Exploitation Route Crucially, the research process has involved the production of textile pieces that account for the diverse stories of our research participants. The pieces have guided the pre-design of a virtual platform for pedagogical purposes to be implemented as a strategy of social appropriation/impact in the second phase of the project. The textile narratives have also been put on public display in four local exhibitions, the village San José de León, the municipality of Apartadó, the municipality of Dabeiba, and the city of Medellin. The exhibitions were accompanied by an interactive textile strategy to capture the reactions of visitors. In terms of the production of textile pieces, we have already tripled the projected amount, which testifies to the fruitfulness of this methodology. The research team has furthermore developed internal teamwork dynamics that also resort to the proposed methodologies of narratives practice and textile narratives, generating interesting processes of reflexivity and investigative craftsmanship in the different project phases of data generation/textile production, data analysis and preliminary outputs.
The new methodology developed by the project (to be made available online in May 2020) can be used by other academics, civil society groups, schools etc. to continue to work on peace and reconciliation, in Colombia and beyond.
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Education,Government, Democracy and Justice,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

 
Description The project methodology involves exhibitions of textile artworks and narratives created by former combatants, their relatives and new neighbours living in regions of east Antioquia, Colombia, and resonances by visitors of these exhibitions at local and regional levels. It is a practical form of bringing different, partly antagonistic groups in Colombian society into dialogue through artistic expressions. This methodology has resulted in changes of attitude among many of the exhibitions' visitors, who have nuanced or changed their negative views of former combatants, or have found hope again regarding the possibility of peace in their country.
First Year Of Impact 2019
Sector Communities and Social Services/Policy,Education,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural,Societal

 
Title Reflexivity through narrative practice and textile narratives 
Description Our project developed narrative practice and textile narratives as two techniques of researcher reflexivity in diverse teams conducting qualitative-interpretive research. Specifically, we adapted definitional ceremonies-a collective structured method of storytelling and group resonances-as useful tool to interweave diverse researchers as a team, while maintaining the plurivocity that enables deeper reflexivity. Additionally, strategies of textile-making were introduced as material and embodied ways of knowing and expressions, which can complement team reflexivity through narrative practice where words fail or are refused. 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Year Produced 2019 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact By acknowledging the wider power/knowledge structures implicating research participants and researchers, reflexivity through narrative practice works against the tendency of situating 'by prior announcement' and through 'identity badges' (Patai). Rather, with its focus on dominant and alternative narratives, universal and subjugated knowledges, reflexivity through narrative practice foregrounds structural inequalities underpinning researchers' identities and situatedness. Additionally, the acknowledgement of the indeterminacy of (self-)narratives, and of the co-existence of dominant and alternative stories which open the possibility of re-authoring individual and group identities, makes narrative practice a useful tool to reflect, throughout the research process, how the latter influences and changes researchers' subjectivities. Sharing experiences through the creative processes of narrative practices and textile narratives has helped our team to address challenges like team members' emotional-political commitments and close familiarity with the research topic which can act as a barrier to understanding and are based on epistemic privilege. Our reflexive practices have allowed us to better understand the power relations, tensions and asymmetries that intersect both the research process and us researchers. Recognising and continuously sharing the plurivocity of our team has also kept us mutually alert about analytical speculations and anticipations. 
 
Description Blog entries, Stitched Voices blog 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The blog entry "Biographical narratives and textile art: a research example from the Colombian peace process", published in English, Spanish and German on the Stitched Voices blog, attracted over 520 views, most of them (over 400) from Spanish-speaking audiences.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://stitchedvoices.wordpress.com/2019/08/15/biographical-narratives-and-textile-art-colombia/
 
Description Experience exchange, Convivamos, Medellin, Colombia 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact We presented our project at the Medellin-based women's organisation Convivamos, as part of an exchange of experiences of a number of projects. The workshop was attended by around 200 persons members of Woman's and Peasant NGOs from different parts of Colombia. Most interestingly, we were able to generate dialogue between the textiles made by former combatants and victims of the violent conflict who attended the event, which led to changes in attitude towards greater understanding.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Faculty of Nursing, University of Antioquia, Medellin 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Over 50 educators in higher education and postgraduate researchers took part in this presentation and textile workshop about our project, which resulted in a lively debate about the role of the profession of nursing in the Colombian peace process and caused a number of participants to change their attitudes towards this process, adopting a more positive outlook, as evidenced through subsequent interviews with some participants.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Interview for German museum blog 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact An interview (in German) about the project was published on the blog of the Women's Museum Fuerth, Germany, and sparked wider interest about the projects and a number of requests for further information.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://www.frauenindereinenwelt.de/blog_deutsch/2019_blog_DE/2019_Im_Gespräch_mit/2019_Studierende/...
 
Description Invited conference contribution, St Andrews 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Project Co-PI Bliesemann de Guevara's presentation "Knowing Through Needlework: Conflict textiles and the study of war in international politics", was held as part of the "Threads, War and Conflict" Conference at The Byre Theatre, St Andrews, UK, and was attended by c.50 colleagues, postgraduate researchers and textile practitioners.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://cain.ulster.ac.uk/conflicttextiles/mediafiles/1293_Threads-Conference-Programme-240419.pdf
 
Description Invited talk, University of St Andrews 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact The presentation "Knowing Through Needlework: Conflict textiles and the study of war in international politics", given by project Co-PI Berit Bliesemann de Guevara, as part of the St Andrews Lecture series at the University of St Andrews, UK, was attended by c.10 colleagues and postgraduate researchers and sparked a lively debate about the research with former combatants through textile means.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://events.st-andrews.ac.uk/events/ir-school-seminar-knowing-through-needlework-conflict-textile...
 
Description Presentation at international symposium, Women's Museum Fürth 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The project presentation at the international symposium "One World: Resistance Art for Peace and Development", held in English and German and translated into Spanish, was attended by c.80 persons from different countries and sparked a lively debate on the possibilities of reintegrating former members of armed groups into civilian society. Some audience members reported changes in attitudes towards former guerrilla fighters.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://www.frauenindereinenwelt.de/gespraeche-im-museum/Gespraeche_2019/2019_21.-23.06_Intern.%20Ge...
 
Description Presentation, ECPR Summer School on Methods and Techniques, Budapest 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact The presentation "Conflict textiles as (not just) visual, (not just) data" was given by Christine Andrä (post-doctoral project researcher) for post-graduate participants of the course "Visual Politics, Visual Organisations" at the ECPR Summer School on Methods and Techniques, Budapest, Hungary.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Presentation, Peace Week, University of Antioquia 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Talk about the project by project Co-PI Prof Beatriz Arias at the University Week for Peace (Semana Universitaria por la Paz), at the University of Antioquia, Medellin, Colombia.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Presentation, Zeppelin University, Germany 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact The presentation "Wege aus dem Konflikt - Selbst- und Fremdbilder ehemaliger FARC-Kombattant*innen in Kolumbien" (Ways out of the conflict) was given by project post-doctoral researcher Dr Christine Andrä as part of the lecture series "Effects of Peace Operations" at Zeppelin University, Germany.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://www.zu-daily.de/daily/tiefenbohrung/2019/11-29_andrae-hand-in-hand-fuer-den-frieden.php
 
Description Residency Textile Art for Community Work, Saragossa, Spain 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact Colombian Co-PI Beatriz Arias gave a series of workshops for textile artists and community workers.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description Ronda de Enfermería, Organisation Colegial de Enfermería 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Colombian project Co-PI Beatriz Arias gave an online presentation about the project methodology, which was attended online by at least 60 persons. Email received after the event give evidence of changes in views of some of those attending the online seminar.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Roundtable, Narratives in Education symposium, Medellin, Colombia 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Co-PIs Beatriz Arias and Berit Bliesemann de Guevara represented the project at a roundtable at the 4th International Symposium on Narratives in Education, 15 November 2019, University of Antioquia, Medellin, Colombia.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://drive.google.com/file/d/1QAh5QJPCzUbwyX4yiG7FRuzkOxyuLNk4/view
 
Description Symposium Embodied Performance Practices, Memory, Conflict and Reconciliation, London 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact The project presentation at this symposium to an interdisciplinary and international audience of HE lecturers, postgraduate researchers and NGO representatives sparked lively discussions around the arts-based work with former combatants.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
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 A talk about first fieldwork impressions about the current state of the Colombian peace process, as part of a colleague's module on contemporary politics in Latin America, was attended by c.25 students, who engaged in a lively debate about problems of the peace process in Colombia and power in the region. One student asked for advice on how to secure an internship in Colombia to work towards development and justice.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Workshop Good Practices in Unarmed Civilian Protection/Accompaniment in Latin America, Bogota 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact We presented two videos about our project with former FARC combatants to a group of 40 practitioners/NGO representatives and academics in unarmed civilian protection/accompaniment in Colombia, Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador and Mexico, followed by a discussion about the nonviolent accompaniment of former combatants as a form of conflict prevention. Some participants changed their views on working with former combatants.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019,2020
 
Description Workshop, women's group Convivamos, Medellin/Colombia 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Workshop held by project Co-PI Beatriz Arias with the Group "Tejedoras de Esperanza" (Weavers of Hope) of the women's NGO Convivamos in Medellín, attended by 12 women who participated actively in the process of producing textile narratives about the reconciliation process in Colombia.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019