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Logs of disappearance: Technologies of memory, subjective experiences, and sub-versions of the past. A Colombian case study

PROJECTOUTLINE

Through the ethnographic study of how relatives live their daily life with a missing family member, and on forensic specialists’ daily practices of investigation and identification, in this study, we will examine the different ways in which a dialogue between these two seemingly opposite experiences and enactments of violence and disappearance can be fostered. It is an exercise of enabling a conversation between different voices, varied enunciation stances, and confrontations with disappearance, in our case: relatives and forensic specialists. Our purpose is twofold: 1. To investigate how such a dialogue may benefit current practices of searching and, eventually, identification and 2. To provide elements for richer accounts of violence and conflict that are made available for current and future memory practices and accounts of the violent past.

It is an exercise of enabling a conversation between different voices, varied enunciation stances, and confrontations with disappearance, in our case: relatives and forensic specialists.

In this regard, our focus on dialogue and conversation between these key actors lies in the understanding that if multi-vocal memory practices are to be done regarding Colombia’s violent past (and present), exercises that involve the voice, narrations, expression, and acts of listening to the multiple interpretations of the past of those directly confronted with violence are in need to be conducted and set in motion. We approach this from a stance that problematizes ideas and hegemonic discourses about enforced disappearance through the experiences and sub-versions of the relatives of missing persons and forensic  specialists of the Colombian (post)conflict.

... our focus on dialogue and conversation between these key actors lies in the understanding that if multi-vocal memory practices are to be done regarding Colombia’s violent past (and present).

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Research notes detail, 2017

© María Fernanda Olarte-Sierra

BIO

DR. MARÍA FERNANDA
OLARTE-SIERRA

As a researcher, I am fundamentally an ethnographer. From the start of my graduate studies –a Master’s in Medical Anthropology and a Doctorate in Social and Behavioral Sciences, both from the University of Amsterdam– I decided to study such relationships through the glass of the body, as an object of study, for it is an eloquent manifestation of the materialisation of cultural canons.  My core interest has always been on studying the effects of social inclusion and exclusion that technology and scientific knowledge produce when they interact with bodies at particular socio-political contexts. Therefore, it has always been my interest to study the different ways in which some people get excluded or included as effects of socio-technological encounters and mediations.

In this context, for some years now, I have been working on technologies of memory practices and knowledge productions regarding processes of dealing with the past.  This, with the aim of addressing whose voices and experiences, are included in narratives and collective memory processes while leaving others out of the main dialogue of reconstructions of the past. My main focus has been on forensic specialists and the in-between place in which they are positioned as fundamental actors for investigating and identifying victims and perpetrators, while at the same time their qualitative experiences as main actors go largely overlooked. I have had the opportunity to develop these ideas by collaborating and working closely with Prof. Amade M’charek of the University of Amsterdam as a visiting scholar to her project Race Matter: On the Absent Presence of Race in Forensic Identification (RaceFaceID) Founded by ERC.

SELECTEDPUBLICATIONS

  1. With J.E. Castro Bermúdez. “Becoming together: Forensic identification of human remains and victims in Colombia (in revision), 2017.

  2. “Comunicaciones cuidadosas: generando pro-comunes”, in: Universitas Humanística 81 (2), 2015: 119-147.

  3. With Adriana Díaz del Castillo, Natalia Pulido Ronchaquira, Nathalia Cabrera Villota, Roberto Suárez Montañes. “Verdad e incertidumbre en el marco del conflicto en Colombia: una mirada a los sistemas de información como prácticas de memoria”, in: Universitas Humanística 79, 2014: 233-254.

  4. With Adriana Díaz del Castillo. “We are all the same, we are all mestizos: Imagined populations and nations in genetics research in Colombia”, in: Science as Culture 23 (2), 2014: 226-252.

  5. With Tania Pérez Bustos, Adriana Díaz del Castillo. “Working with care: experiences of invisible women scientists practicing forensic genetics in Colombia”, in: Medina, Edina et al. (eds.), Beyond Imported Magic. Essays on Science, Technology and Society in Latin America, London, 2014: 67-86.

  6. With Adriana Díaz del Castillo. “The travels of humans, categories and other genetic products: a case study of the practice of population genetics in Colombia”, in: Wade, Peter et al. (eds.), Mestizo Genomics: Race Mixture, Nation, and Science in Latin America, Durham/London, 2014: 135-159.

  7. With Peter Wade, Vivette García Deister, Michael Kent. “Social categories and laboratory practices in Brazil, Colombia and Mexico”, in: Wade, Peter et al. (eds.), Mestizo Genomics: Race Mixture, Nation, and Science in Latin America, Durham/London, 2014: 183-209.

  8. “Ciencia, Tecnología y América Latina: Perspectivas situadas”, in: Universitas Humanística 76 (2), 2013: 13-22.

  9. With Adriana Díaz del Castillo, Tania Pérez Bustos. “Testigos modestos y poblaciones invisibles en la cobertura de la genética humana en los medios de comunicación colombianos”, in: Interface, Comunicação, Saude, Educação 16 (41), 2012: 451-467.