Accepted Paper:

Narratives of displacement: children in displacement conditions constructing agency and reconstructing identities  


Alba Guerrero (Pontificia Universidad Javeriana -CINDE Bogotá)

Paper short abstract:

This paper illustrates how children displaced by the armed conflict in Colombia utilized cultural resources to exercise agency and recreate discourses to reject or negotiate displacement as a category of identification and supplanted it with alternative identities.

Paper long abstract:

Displaced children by the armed conflict in Colombia represent a particularly vulnerable population forced to adapt to a new way of life. Drawing from sociocultural theories of identity that emphasize the interplay between structural factors and agency and the role of discourse as a mediating tool in the construction of identities, this study examines the ways displaced children in a violent and impoverished area located in the outskirts of Bogotá, Colombia, recreate the meanings of their physical and cultural worlds. The ethnographic data consist of five months of participant observation, focus group and in-depth interviews, and the analysis of multiple artifacts, including narratives, photographs, written texts and everyday talk within the program. The data suggest that children, rather than being passive victims of circumstance, are actively involved in a continuous process on making and unmaking categorical identities. The category of Internally Displaced Person (IDP), in addition to being a humanitarian label, develops into a social category constructed in the course of daily life. The analysis of children's narratives revealed children's struggles against the stigmatizing discourse of displacement constructed in the local context. Children did not passively internalize the world of displacement in which IDPs are either victimized, criminalized or pathologized. Instead they sought to actively make sense of the challenges, ambiguities and conflictual situations. Through the analysis of children´s discourses this paper illustrates how children utilized cultural resources that were available to exercise agency as they improvised responses to challenge the identities ascribed by others in their every day interactions.

Panel P034
Childhood(s) and youth(s) of the future: children as cultural and social resources (Commission on Children, Youth and Childhood)