Executive Session - Oral Presentation
Reviewed by: Association for Political and Legal Anthropology
Of interest to: Practicing and Applied Anthropologists, Students
Primary Theme: Policy
Secondary Theme: Violence
What can the Colombian peace process tell us about the complexities of how change occurs (and/or fails to) in societies? Transitions away from armed conflict are rife with imaginations of citizenship, reinventions of identities and categories, and resistance to change. In Colombia, the state has tried to engineer social change towards peace, but not all of society feels the same about these attempts, as evidenced by the 2016 referendum which narrowly rejected the first peace deal signed with FARC. The contestations that emerge within and between different groups reveal tensions that bely the discourse that making peace—or managing change—is simply a case of ‘changing people’s chips’.
This panel draws together scholars who work on issues of peace, justice, and reconciliation in Colombia, to present ethnographic research with former combatants, victims of the armed conflict, members of the Colombian government, armed forces and bureaucracy, and other key actors. Nearly two years after Colombia's peace accord with the FARC was signed, this panel presents an opportunity to reflect on the contested meanings of peace, fractured notions of the state, and reinvented understandings of citizenship, by viewing the early results of a state-led attempt to engineer a cultural transition. Inducing a collective transition is not straight forward: some have heralded the Colombian peace process as the latest in transitional justice and the opportunity to build peace among all sectors of society; others have staunchly resisted it, shaking the ground of this incipient ‘post-conflict.’ Any transition involves multiple transitions: in individuals, in collectives, in institutions, and crucially, changing tensions in the relationship between state and society.
Drawing on these different ethnographies, this panel will ask three key questions, using the specificities of the Colombian case: How does the act of making peace change and/or reproduce existing relationships between state and society? What do the micropolitical complexities of this transition reveal about how change is produced and contested in societies and their different groups? And can this focus on the upheaval of a transition to a post-conflict offer any guidance as to how to conceive of, study and perhaps contribute to other kinds of change at this critical juncture in global society?