Tag Archives: Violence

The Heart of the Andes, Landscape and Art in Bogotá Before and After Alexander von Humboldt

Posted by Natalia Aguilar Vasquez – PhD Student at NYU Department of Spanish and Portuguese Languages and Literature

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Art gallery and cultural space FLORA ars+natura in Bogota, Colombia. First day of the curatorial workshop by Miguel A. Lopez, July 30th 2018.

My research interests were, initially, the intersections between contemporary art and recent literature in Colombia, specially focused on ways of representing violence, memory, and trauma in the Colombian society and the bodies. That research shifted, and instead of dealing only with bodies and Biopolitics as critical lenses to understand such aesthetics, I noticed a “return” or, as many would say, an always latent concern with “the land”, the politics of creating landscapes and, most importantly, the spatial dimension of the Colombian internal war and conflict.

I started a journey visiting art galleries in Bogotá, new spaces for art and culture in the city. The “return” and reincorporation of landscape was visible in several exhibitions coming from young artists, but also in the creation of new spaces for culture in the city. Hybrid locations, a mix of gallery, research centers, and incubators for artistic projects. The question of physical boundaries, personal and public/political space, as well as the ambivalent relation between the urban and the rural, are crucial to imagine and live, in the so-called “post-conflict” Colombia.

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Maré at Night

Posted by Michelle Hurtubise, MA Candidate at NYU’s Center for Experimental Humanities. This post was written in the summer of 2017, based on research funded by the Tinker Grant. 

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Photo by Michelle Hurtubise

My day started sleepily, having fended off an annoying mosquito all night.  I was gathering my strength, ready to encounter an unknown world, putting on first world makeup on to cover the bites when I heard the twerp again.  Oh I was ready.  Slap, blood, and thank goodness the mirror I hit with all my morning force didn’t shatter.  As I wiped up the mess I had the odd thought that I was cleaning up my own blood.  Forget about the mosquito, poor me.  I just spilled my own blood.

Recently I had seen BOPE (Special Police Operation Battalion) roll their tanks through the Maré Favela in Rio de Janeiro.  A school had closed because when a fire had started in a wastebasket, the firemen refused to come put it out.  They feared the favela.  So they called the police.  When BOPE rolled in, the community knew there would be trouble.  And then the shooting started.  So a school closed for the day because someone was scared to put out a fire in a wastebasket.  The tanks rolled by, and fanned the flames higher and higher and then bullets flew.

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Totalizing Violence and Experience in Mexico

Maya Aguiluz Ibargüen

Maya Aguiluz Ibargüen

Maya Aguiluz Ibargüen, senior research fellow at Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM), has been a visiting scholar at NYU this past semester. As a sociologist, she has published widely on the discourse of modernity and social theory. In 2012, she received the UNAM’s “Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz” Award.

Aguiluz-Ibargüen studies violence from historical, anthropological, and sociological perspectives following integrative streams for transdisciplinary fusions. She began to intertwine perspectives through the integration of social sciences with anthropological and cultural studies.

In the beginning of the nineties, Aguiluz-Ibargüen did her Masters in La Paz, Bolivia, during which she was fascinated with her immersion into Bolivian pluralistic society. According to her, the Andean identification processes are continuously built in a plural process: cultures, politics, projects, and ideas from different parts of the world mix together, and the Andean culture learns how to embrace them. In 2005, she conducted research for a collaborative project about the work of Arturo Peralta Miranda. Known under the pseudonym of Gamaliel Churata, he is a writer who was exiled from Peru to Bolivia in 1919, but became an acknowledged journalist in the 1950s. Aguiluz- Ibargüen’s first work on Churata used Quechua and Aymara narrative to express social experiences through mythical stories and parables.

She decided to come to CLACS because of the Center’s focus on her region of  main interest: the Andes. But another important reason that motivated her is that CLACS Director, Jill Lane, is an expert in Performance Studies, and Aguiluz-Ibargüen is currently focusing on social suffering, the politics of love, and the performance of violence. Continue reading

Ayacucho and the Legacy of Violence

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Tucked away in the Andes mountain range, the small city of Ayacucho was the birth place of the notorious Maoist insurgent group, the Shining Path (SP). The movement began in the 1960s and 70s in the University of Huamanga, and then spread out into the surrounding communities in the early 1980s. At first, the ideas and ideals of the Shining Path revolution were attractive to many Ayacuchans, the majority of whom were quechua-speakers campesinos (farmers or peasants), who as a population had been historically excluded from full participation – economic, democratic, and social – in the Peruvian nation. Slowly, however, as rural communities began to witness SP’s use of violence as a tool for discipline, punishment, and social control, many began to turn their backs on the group. In some villages ronderos (civilian guards) were formed as a mechanism of defense against the Shining Path. The rondero groups were themselves notoriously violent, especially those which allied with Peruvian armed forces. The Peruvian military itself was also heavily complicit in violence that constituted violations of human rights; in its desperation to rid the country of leftist “terrorists,” it massacred and “disappeared” civilians throughout the 1980s and 1990s.

This last point was driven home for me in no uncertain terms when, upon arrival in Ayacucho, I visited Los Cabitos, a former military base in the desert just outside of city limits. Hundreds of people were said to have entered the base and never been seen or heard from again. These accounts were confirmed when the Specialized Forensic Team (an entity of the Peruvian judicial branch), exhumed more than one hundred dead bodies from impromptu graves in a small valley behind the base. The entire area is still today covered in the grids left behind from the forensic archaeological excavations (pictured). Perhaps even more haunting was the infamous Cabitos oven, which was eventually installed by the military to burn bodies and dispose of remains more effectively. During the excavation, calcined bone fragments, especially teeth, were said to have been found under the site of the oven and scattered around the perimeter of the property. Although it is possible to extract DNA from bone, the charring and calcificaiton of remains greatly reduces this prospect and limits forensic investigators’ ability to identify remains and accurately estimate the number of people killed at Los Cabitos. Continue reading

Yuyanapaq: To Remember Peru’s Violent Past

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(Photos taken with permission at Yuyanapaq; collage original)

I recently began my summer fieldwork in Lima, Peru, where I visited the photo exhibit Yuyanapaq, or “To Remember” in Quechua. Created by Peru’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) in 2003, the exhibit is a compilation of photographs that document the impact of political violence on the Peruvian population in the 1980s and 1990s. It groups violent events geographically and categorically, portraying the aftermath of bombings, murders, and attacks by the Peruvian military, the Maoist group the Shining Path (Sendero Luminoso), and the other communist armed group the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA). Yuyanapaq is impressive not only in that it does not shy away from exposing the realities of violence, but in that attracts a wide range of Peruvian visitors who, upon being reminded of the country’s violent period, will hopefully work to prevent it from recurring.

The photos evoke Peru’s violent past, even showing physical harm done to the war’s victims. Multiple images show dead and mutilated bodies. They capture inadvertent looks of shock and awe from survivors and first responders, and the utter anguish of family members as they look over the corpses of their loved ones. The only thing that I can think to compare the exhibit to in the United States is a miniature version of the Holocaust Museum. Yet whereas in the Holocaust it was easy to place the blame on the Nazis, and even on one clear, specific perpetrator, in Peru political violence and human rights abuses were committed by both the state military and leftist armed groups such as the Shining Path. How might the moral ambiguity that this type of conflict generates help us better understand the nature of violence? Were all those who committed violent acts in the context of Peru’s war “bad people” at heart, no matter what side they were on? If not, then what pushes otherwise decent people to commit such horrific acts?

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