Visions of Peace: Transitions between violence and peace in Latin America

The main goal of the Laboratory Visions of Peace is the analysis and study of the entanglements and transitions between violence and peace. For that purpose, this project has been divided in four research thematic lines, namely: 1) critical revision of concepts and semantic fields of peace and violence, as well as of their relationality; 2) study of visions and discourses of peace, violence and war, as well as their cultural and artistic expressions; 3) research of peace strategies, processes and initiatives; 4) analysis of transitional processes threatening peace, including media and the tools for its maintenance and strengthening.

The Laboratory aims at understanding the violence crisis currently blighting Latin American societies from an inter- and transdisciplinary perspective. It also aims at formulating proposals to tackle violence by means of the research conducted by Fellows and the organization of various activities of academic exchange and dialogue with other members, civil society organizations and with the field of politics. The general coordination of the Laboratory is in charge of the CALAS Central American and Caribbean Regional Center, with office at the Universidad de Costa Rica, while the administrative organization is in charge of the local coordination with office in the CALAS Center at the Universidad de Guadalajara.

The main axis of the scientific research carried out in the Laboratory is the work of eleven Fellows who, coming from different disciplines of social sciences and humanities, focus their research on one of the four thematic lines previously mentioned. Moreover, the Laboratory has four doctoral students whose work is framed by its general objectives. Fellows, doctoral students, scholars and social and political stakeholders and organizations of several Latin American countries have shared their research and experiences in the various platforms and international conferences put forward by the Laboratory between 2019 and 2020. Go to Activities

The Laboratory is established as a critical analysis platform joining Conflict and Peace Studies, as well as Violence Studies, and orienting its approach towards Latin America and the specificities of peace and violence that it puts forward. The Laboratory takes as a starting point the fact that, in Latin America, the tension between peace and violence is largely linked to intersocietal armed conflicts. Regarding wars between countries, the region has remained very peaceful in comparison to other parts of the world, such as Europe.

Another premise is the transitional nature of peace. The Laboratory understands peace not as a state which can be definitely achieved, but as a varying process, affected by various political, social and discursive factors, among others. If peace involves a permanent effort, it means that, in fact, violence is not completely excluded. Instead, peace and violence are intertwined in contradictory coexistences. Accordingly, the Laboratory advances critical studies of peace(s) in different historical contexts, in an attempt to explore its violent aspects—Peace for whom? How pacific is pacification? What does it mean to impose peace? As opposition to, resistance to and critic of violence, peace portrays itself as an ethical norm guiding scientific research. In consequence, the Laboratory seeks dialogue and cooperation with citizen movements and artistic initiatives fighting against violence.

The current violence crisis in Latin America poses a huge challenge for societies and academia. The Laboratory studies violence as a diffuse phenomenon, spreading over society, diversifying in several forms, frequently establishing itself as the norm and normality of a society. The security policies of the states have failed to control violence ramifications, partly because security forces many times end up being part of the crisis.

Although currently the problem dimension is severe enough, the Laboratory expands the analysis to the historical context, since it finds that violence presents continuities which change with historical junctures and social and political change processes. Thorough knowledge on this subject is key to understanding violence in its current state. In this sense, traumatic violence (caused by armed conflicts, civil wars or state terrorism) tends to last and, therefore, reappears and keeps causing harm, even after a long time.
Another approach is related to violence representations, discourses and narratives, conforming the so-called cultural violence. Its analysis aims at understanding the ways in which violence is legitimized and culturally appreciated, and how it takes roots in Latin American social imaginaries, considering, at the same time, the particular forms of violence validation in various social contexts.

In this light, a large part of the research of the Laboratory focuses on peace strategies and processes in violent contexts. In the first place, peace political processes advanced by states stand out as subjects of study, such as the cases of Central America in recent history, and Colombia in the present. For the Laboratory research work, the activities arising from civil society in its multiple efforts to oppose and resist the various violences that affect it are of equal importance. In this context, it is essential to study narrative and discursive strategies and their input in order to address the damages, delegitimize violence and create imaginaries that reject it.

Finally, this project studies the transitions between peace and violence. Given the instability of imperfect peaces, there appear tendencies to solve conflicts by means of violent mechanisms (such as arms), which, in certain sociopolitical constellations, can even be dominant. This problem is of particular relevance in contexts in which it was possible to end armed conflicts and reestablish peace. In post-conflict contexts, violence frequently persists in traumatic ways. For this reason, the Laboratory focuses particularly on strategies and mechanisms of peace maintenance and strengthening, such as the various efforts to retrieve the historic memory of multiple human rights violations.

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