How do We Imagine Peace in Colombia?

A discussion on a peace process, violence and our own position

13 December 2016

University of Bath


Speaker: Dr Jonathan Newman
[University of Sussex]

Colombia has become a classical space of research for those who want to portray violence. A peace process in Colombia inspires imagination, suspicion, anticipation, relief and the grabbing of available political and moral instruments. Differing views on the peace process reveal heterogeneous experiences and interpretations of conflict histories. Outside of Colombia, ideas of what conflict and violence might be are mostly informed by our own experiences and interpretations – often based on textual or visual performances pegged to a radically different sensation of continual background threat than those experienced in situ and in vivo.

“The discussion first considers my ethnography that looked at Colombian coffee farmers who live with much violence while producing coffee for ethical trading schemes. This work considers how violence is talked about and the social interconnections between economy and violence in a place with significant levels of impunity. In this instance, conflict provides the scenery to contemporary violence. The nation’s civil wars are a local encounter positioned in local political, economic and moral systems”

Having situated a version of local violence, the discussion turns to the peace process, covering in basic terms: the history of conflict; political positions; some details about the negotiations in Havana; the No vote; and subsequent developments since the referendum. I will also include my own limited involvement with the process.

Finally, these two contrasting narratives of Colombian violence will be brought together in order to develop a story of local interpretations of the peace process. This narrative is then turned back to the audience to encourage them to consider what violence and the Colombian peace process means to them in their own lives. What do distant violent encounters provoke?

For further information about this and other PoLIS Departmental Seminars at The University of Bath, please visit their website.