Dwellers of Memory
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Dwellers of Memory : Youth and Violence in Medellin, Colombia

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Dwellers of Memory is an ethnographic study of how urban youth in Colombia came to be at the intersection of multiple forms of political, drug-related, and territorial violence in a country undergoing forty years of internal armed conflict. It examines the ways in which youth in the city of Medellin reconfigure their lives and, cultural worlds in the face of widespread violence. This violence has transgressed familiar boundaries and destroyed basic social supports and networks of trust. This volume attempts to map and understand its patterns and flows.

The author explores how Medellin's youth locate themselves and make, sense of violence through contradictory and shifting memory practices. The violence has not completely taken over their cultural worlds or their subjectivities. Practices of remembering and forgetting are key methods by which these youth rework their identities and make sense of the impact of violence on their lives. While the experience of violence is rooted in urban space and urban youth, the memory dwellers use a sense of place, oral histories of death, and narratives of fear as survival strategies for inhabiting violent neighborhoods. The book also examines fissures in memory, the contradictory constructions of young people's subjective selves, and practices of gendered violence and terror. All have and continue to pose risks to the historical memory and cultural survival of the residents of Medellin.

Dwellers of Memory offers an alternative ethnographic approach to the study of memory and violence, one that calls into question whether the, role of the ethnographer of violence is to be a mere witness of terror, or to oppose it by writing against it. It will be of interest to sociologists, anthropologists, and students of, ethnography.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 252 pages
  • 157.5 x 236.2 x 22.9mm | 544.32g
  • Transaction Publishers
  • Somerset, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 0765803143
  • 9780765803146

Table of contents

List of Maps and Images
Prologue
Preface
Acknowledgments
Introduction
Colombia at the Crossroads
Youth's Forgettings and the Politics of Memory
Bridges of Memory
The Circulation of Memories and the Traffic of Violence
An Anthropology of Remembering and Forgetting
Dwellers of Memory: The Youth in this Book

Chapter 1
Local Histories in a National Light
Clouds of Smoke: The Thirties
A War of Colors and Horrors: The Fifties
Red Lights in the Barrio: The "Tolerant" Years
Languages of Concealment: The Sixties
Travels and Travellers: The Seventies
A Troubling Image of Youth: The 1980s and 1990s
Busy Streets
Local Wars
Pigs for Peace
"Por que, a pesar de tanta mierda, este barrio es poder?"

Chapter 2
Remembering Place: Making and Sensing Places
Place-Making: Memory Landscapes and Landmarks
A Walkabout
The Memory of Things Seen
Soundscaping
Dwelling
Place-Naming
Changing Names, Changing Dynamics
Typologies of Social Space and Spatial Practices
Home Far Away From Home
Imagining and Border Crossing
Communities of Memory in Place

Chapter 3
The Living Memories of Death: Oral Histories of Death and the Dead
I see his blood that falls like seed: Narratives of the Dead
"How do you speak to the disappeared?"
Chronologies of Death and Dead-Listings
Events and Their Meaning: Giving Death a Place
An Embodied Place for Death
Subjects of Death: Martyrs

Chapter 4
Ghosts, Possessed Bodies and Warriors: Narratives of Fear and Gendered Violence
Ghostly Stories and Social Regulations
"This happened to me, I have lived this": Witnesses and Possessed Spirits
Warrior Bodies, Women and Terror
Fissures in the Social Fabric and Social Tensions

Chapter 5
A Generational Forgetting?
Territorial Otherness
Paths of Distrust and Vengeance
Witnessing, Suffering and Memory
Epilogue
Bibliography
Index
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Review quote

"This textured ethnography of how young barrio dwellers from Medelln, Colombia, collectively weave their memories of violence into the very space of death where they live, provides new directions for the anthropology of violence, moving us beyond fatalism and voyeurism, to a constructive engagement with the very people with whom we work. The actors in this ethnography are eloquent witnesses to the Colombian conflict, presented by Pilar Riao-Alcal as agents in the reconstruction of their world--although they are not always successful in this respect. Riao shows us how their memories of violence are lodged in urban space, embodied in narratives and in sound and movement. In this thought-provoking book, Riao-Alcal recounts how she transformed the traditional ethnographic enterprise, not with innovative modes of writing, but through an innovative field methodology in which tangible connections with and among her respondents are built through collective remembering, making the researcher part of the very story she is investigating. Riao-Alcal's workshop approach--itself, a Latin American contribution to anthropology--is an eloquent example of how anthropological methods can contribute to dialogue and peacemaking. "Dwellers of Memory" is engaged anthropology at its very best." "--Joanne Rappaport, Professor of Latin American Cultural Studies and Anthropology, Georgetown University"

""Dwellers of Memory" is an outstanding examination of Colombian violence, with lessons for much of the contemporary world. Rather than taking "violence" as an undifferentiated and unavoidable fact affecting countless numbers of faceless people, Dr. Riao takes us through a difficult but intellectually and politically instructive voyage of discovery and understanding of the intimate details that account for the more visible forms of violence. Focusing on the cultural dynamics of remembering and forgetting by poor urban youth in Medelln over the past twenty-five years --in their attac "This textured ethnography of how young barrio dwellers from Medelln, Colombia, collectively weave their memories of violence into the very space of death where they live, provides new directions for the anthropology of violence, moving us beyond fatalism and voyeurism, to a constructive engagement with the very people with whom we work. The actors in this ethnography are eloquent witnesses to the Colombian conflict, presented by Pilar Riao-Alcal as agents in the reconstruction of their world--although they are not always successful in this respect. Riao shows us how their memories of violence are lodged in urban space, embodied in narratives and in sound and movement. In this thought-provoking book, Riao-Alcal recounts how she transformed the traditional ethnographic enterprise, not with innovative modes of writing, but through an innovative field methodology in which tangible connections with and among her respondents are built through collective remembering, making the researcher part of the very story she is investigating. Riao-Alcal's workshop approach--itself, a Latin American contribution to anthropology--is an eloquent example of how anthropological methods can contribute to dialogue and peacemaking. "Dwellers of Memory" is engaged anthropology at its very best." "--Joanne Rappaport, Professor of Latin American Cultural Studies and Anthropology, Georgetown University"

""Dwellers of Memory" is an outstanding examination of Colombian violence, with lessons for much of the contemporary world. Rather than taking "violence" as an undifferentiated and unavoidable fact affecting countless numbers of faceless people, Dr. Riao takes us through a difficult but intellectually and politically instructive voyage of discovery and understanding of the intimate details that account for the more visible forms of violence. Focusing on the cultural dynamics of remembering and forgetting by poor urban youth in Medelln over the past twenty-five years --in their attachme
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About Pilar Riano-Alcala

Pilar Riano-Alcala is assistant professor, School of Social Work and Family Studies, University of British Columbia, Canada.
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