Suspicious Landscapes

Suspicious Landscapes: Humanitarian Demining and Peace Laboratories in Rural Colombia

My current project, Suspicious Landscapes: Humanitarian Demining and Peace Laboratories in Rural Colombia, is an ethnography study of Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) and mine clearance in times of suspended war and peace. With the aid of ethnographic concepts, I explore experimental practices of political reconciliation built around humanitarian efforts to demine territories formerly ravaged by wars. Empirically, I study the relations between anti-personnel mines, former foes (guerrilla members and soldiers from the Colombian army), war-affected peasant communities, and demining experts –including mine-sniffing dogs.

This research is based on two years of fieldwork among participants in a Pilot Project for Humanitarian Demining. Touted as a ‘peace laboratory,’ the Pilot Project was an initiative to experiment “on the ground” the possibility of an alliance between enemies that were still at war. It hoped to create relations of trust, collaboration, and reconciliation among them and peasants trapped in the middle of the crossfire. Through this joint work, they were to create and escalate relations of trust, collaboration, and reconciliation among them. The humanitarian and political goal of the demining project was to remake rural landscapes and re-enable peasant life. My research demonstrates that these efforts were fraught with tensions, challenges, and aporias. Troubles abound, and (war) residuals may remain. What reconciliation, development, and peace may become is, therefore, still at stake. The possibilities are unfinished.

Check my future research project, Senses in Translation.