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Accepted Paper:

Subterranean memories and alternative representations of peace and war in Colombia  


Patrick Naef (University of Geneva)

Paper short abstract:

In Colombia, competing representations and discourses on the armed conflict are at stake. Through creative means such as visual and corporal memorialization of the violence, some actors involved in memorial practices are attempting to challenge hegemonic narratives on peace and war.

Paper long abstract:

Drawing on case studies in Medellin, the second largest city of the country, this paper suggests that certain "subterranean memorial practices" that have emerged in some of its peripheral neighborhoods, strongly traumatized by guerillas, paramilitarism and gang violence, can be considered as forms of resistance. "Galeria Viva" (Living Gallery) and "Cuerpos Gramaticales" (Grammatical Bodies) are two memorial initiatives through which some actors, conceived here as "memorial entrepreneurs", advocate and offer alternative ways of representing past and present violence. Through an annual commemoration event introduced in 2014, Cuerpos Gramaticales presents artistic and memorial performances in various public spaces in Medellin, staging the partial burial of dozens of individuals in order to denounce the disappearance of their relatives in a nearby mass grave. Launched in 2017, Galeria Viva is a project that focuses on painting murals on the walls of the cemetery "La América", representing, among others, teenagers who were recently assassinated; the paintings are generally co-produced with relatives of the victims. Memorial practices are considered here as resources through which individuals and groups can challenge hegemonic representations of the violence that continues to plague many cities in Colombia, despite the prospect of peace. Memorial entrepreneurs in these urban marginal areas, through creative means such as visual, performative, and corporal remembrance of violence, resist the loss of their territories, counter the descent of victims into collective oblivion and propose alternative visions of violence prevention.

Panel B10
Unearthing Memories: Remembering and Forgetting as Subterranean Practices