Violentologists and magistrates: Questions of justice and responses to violence in contemporary Colombia
Marcus, George E.
Doctor of Philosophy
Colombia is known for being both, Latin America's oldest democracy and the western hemisphere's most violent country where democratic mechanisms coexist with increasingly restricted basic and civil rights, authoritarian measures and acute violence. The attempts to consolidate a Nation-State, based on principles of national integration, have been blurred systematically by the elite's own needs for containing what they have historically understood as social disorder. Colombia, while seeking national integration, has been caught in the web of an exacerbated social disintegration which has not been understood by academic endeavors nor contained by emergency legislation. This dissertation is an ethnography that reconstructs the cultural history of Colombian functional elites and their ambiguous relation towards endemic violence. The research is based on a systematic exploration (carried out in Bogota from 1994 to 1996) of the spectrum of responses that Colombian academics and magistrates of the Constitutional Court have made in the face of the country's complex interrelated forms of violence. These two unusual ethnographic sites (Constitutional Court and the "violentology", a Colombian academic subfield) have been specially relevant in the shaping of key concepts and values concerning order, law, peace and security within a society in crisis. By tapping into diffuse elite discussions about violence and their location within institutions, the dissertation ethnographically documents how alternatives to violence are sought in the midst of an acute Presidentialism and a extended culture of indifference and fear. More broadly the research addresses issues on social and cultural dynamics within political institutions, issues on the production of discursive fields within cultures of expertise, and issues on subjectivity and creativity within institutional spheres.
Cultural anthropology; Law; Political science