Pilar Riaño-Alcalá

Pilar Riaño-Alcalá (Ph.D., Anthropology, University of British Columbia) is a professor at the Institute of Social Justice at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada, and co-director of the Memory and Justice program. Her academic work explores issues related to memories, social reparation, orality, performance, and mass violence. She was a researcher for the Group of Historical Memory of Colombia and advisor to the Museum of Historical Memory in Colombia. Pilar leads three projects: “Memoria Transformativa: Fortaleciendo una red internacional” (Transformative Memory: Strengthening an international network) with Erin Baines (UBC); “Exhumaciones y entierros en Colombia. Fortaleciendo las practicas forenses” (Exhumations and burials in Colombia. Strengthening forensic practices), with the Committee for the Rights of the Victims of Medio Atrato, and “Responsabilidades Sagradas con el agua. Intercambios indígenas de conocimiento (Canadá-Colombia)” (Sacred Responsibilities with water. Indigenous knowledge exchanges (Canada-Colombia) with Aimée Craft.


Main publications:


2006 and 2017digital. Dwellers of Memory: Youth and Violence in Medellin, Colombia: Taylor and Francis.

2017 (con M. Bello). Museo Nacional de la Memoria: Un lugar para el encuentro. Bogotá: Centro Nacional de Memoria Histórica.

2013 (con M. Bello; A. Suarez; F. Gonzalez; R. Uprinmy; L. Sánchez). Basta Ya. Colombia: Memorias de Guerra y Dignidad. Informe final del Grupo de Memoria Histórica. Bogotá: Centro Nacional de Memoria Historica.

2011 (con M. I. Villa M. I; A. Sánchez (Relatoras). Las huellas invisible de la guerra. Desplazamiento forzado en la Comuna 13 de Medellín. Grupo de Memoria Histórica. Comisión Nacional de Reparación y Reconciliación. Bogotá: Taurus.

2011 (con E. Polo, E.; V. Quintero, V. y M. Wills, M. (Relatoras). Mujeres que hacen historia. Tierra, cuerpo y política en el Caribe colombiano. Bogotá: Taurus.

2010. (Relatora). La masacre de Bahía Portete. Mujeres Wayuu en la mira. Grupo de Memoria Histórica. Comisión Nacional de Reparación y Reconciliación. Bogotá: Taurus.

2010 (con M. Bello, relatoras). Bojayá. La Guerra sin límites. Grupo de Memoria Histórica. Comisión Nacional de Reparación y Reconciliación. Bogotá: Taurus.


Articles in magazines:

2021. Stories that Claim: Justice Narratives and Testimonial Practices Among the Wayuu. Anthropological Quarterly, In print.

2020. (con N. Quiceno). Introducción: Presencias, sensibilidades y políticas cotidianas del habitar en el Atrato. En el número especial: “Pensar con el rio. Acción política y trayectorias de vida y muerte en el Atrato,” Editado por N. Quiceno y Pilar Riaño, Revista Colombiana de Antropología 56(2).

2020. (con R. Chaparro). Cantando el sufrimiento del rio. Memoria, poética y acción política de las cantadoras del Medio Atrato chocoano. Revista Colombiana de Antropología 56(2): 79-110.

2020. (con N. Quiceno, Camila Orjuela y Jose Valencia). Dignificar la vida y la muerte: Entierro colectivo en medio de la persistencia de la guerra en Bojayá, Colombia. LASA Forum 51(1): 14-19.

2017. (con C. LeGrand, y L. van Isschot). Land, Memory and Justice: Challenges for Peace. Introduction to the Special Issue on Land, Memory and Justice. Canadian Journal of Latin America and Caribbean Studies, 42(3): 259-276, 2017.

2017. (con M. Uribe). Construyendo memoria en medio del conflicto. El Grupo de Memoria Histórica de Colombia. Revista de estudios colombianos. N. 47. November.

2016. (con M. V. Uribe). Constructing Memory amidst War: The Historical Memory Group of Colombia. International Journal of Transitional Justice 10(1): 6-24.

2014. Emplaced Witnessing: Sites of Insight, Imagination, and Commemoration among the Wayuu. Memory Studies, 8(3), 282-297.


Research Project as a fellow of CALAS

Title: Repairing in the day to day: violence, chronicity, and memories in contexts of massive violence

Abstract: This project investigates the acts and processes through which individuals and social groups respond and give meaning to the uncertainty and fragmentation that result from massive violence and the means by which they sustain their worlds and ways of inhabiting on a day-to-day basis. Taking as a reference two ethnographic works on memory and violence in Colombia in the context of a long-lasting war and structural violence, the project interrogates the restorative worlds that operate in the midst of the chronic crisis and in particular those acts of memory through which the people give meaning to their experiences of violence and the destructuring of their worlds. The project questions the structuring, historical, and daily nature of the violence associated with armed conflict or humanitarian disasters. That is to say, violence that, although it is fraught with extraordinary events for those who suffer it and circumscribed in declarations of states of exception by political or humanitarian regimes, is drawn on the imponderable background of daily life and regimes of violence of long duration. From this point of view, crises do not simply result from the sudden or isolated irruption of an extraordinary event but from historical and structural situations, that is, from continuities and historical accumulations and under contexts of continuous uncertainty (Das 2008), racial capitalism, and colonialism.