After the traces of the Invisible: Sound, “Nature”, and Pain in Colombia’s Truth Commission

Event date
30 April 2024
Event time
16:15 - 17:30
Oxford week
TT 2
LIVE ONLINE please register below

Alejandro Castillejo-Cuéllar, Universidad de los Andes, Colombia

Notes & Changes

In this conference I present a meditation on the concept of “nature as subject of pain” in the context of Colombia’s Truth Commission’s Final Report (2022). I understand truth-seeking models of investigation as complex “listening devises” (Castillejo-Cuéllar, 2023). As part of a larger criticism of transitional justices’ anthropocentrism (a decolonizing gesture I call the Global Gospel of Forgiveness and Reconciliation), my work in the Commission explored, among other things, the violence(s) of longer temporalities through a method I call itineraries of the senses in which the sonic, testimonial, and itinerant dimensions of a multilayered listening were integrated. We listened, recorded, and walked along the Amazon and the Caribbean regions of the country, with indigenous elders from seven different societies, in order to learn to listen to the trees, the forest and the more-than-human. Itineraries of the senses is a method I have devised (2020) along the years of fieldwork in South Africa, Perú, México and Colombia studying the connections between violence and memory. As part of the Commission process, I managed to edit the testimonial volume (When Birds did not sing: Histories of Colombia’s Armed Conflict) together with a “moving pedagogy”, a sonic-ritualized-reading of testimonies gathered by the Commission and a series of sound pieces (32), particularly a coproduced 13-minute work called Murmurs, or the scar of Nature, presented in Documenta fifteen (2022). In the text, I dwell on the overlapping territories of arts and the documentation of violence. ​​

Associated readings:​


Speaker's BIO:

Professor Alejandro Castillejo-Cuéllar is associate professor of anthropology at the Universidad de los Andes, Colombia. He has significant ethnographic experience in the field of Peace and Conflict Studies. His work has dealt, over the last 20 years, with the impact that different forms of violence have had on the existential landscape of human experience. In this context, he has conducted fieldwork in Colombia and South Africa among victims’ organizations and former combatants. Professor Castillejo-Cuéllar was also international observer to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Peru as well as consultant to the National Commission for Reconciliation in Colombia. Since 2011, he has also led the Critical Studies Program on Political Transitions (PECT), an interdisciplinary academic initiative and network of researchers from the global South interested in the study of the social worlds that emerge during the aftermath of violence, with particular attention to the questions of subjectivity and everyday survival. ​

He is currently working on the book “After the traces of the body: ethnophonies (im)materialities and the sensorial life of the missing in Colombia”.

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