Textures of Transition: Understanding Memorial Spaces in Medellin, Colombia

Authors: Hayley Pedrick*, University of New Mexico
Topics: Cultural Geography, Latin America
Keywords: memorials, transitional justice, commemoration, Colombia, memory
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The role of commemoration in transitional justice in Latin America is increasingly prominent at both local and international scales, ranging from recommendations outlined by the Inter-American court system to the state-funded construction of monuments in rural communities. Colombia, in transition from the longest ongoing civil conflict in the Americas, has established an array of material and symbolic reparatory practices, from land restitution laws to the creation of memorials and museums. The representation of, by, and for victims of civil conflict, however, holds multiple functions: acknowledging or revealing injustice, providing a space for mourning or consolation, inviting reflection, celebrating the present and/or transmitting current political messages through depictions of the past. This paper presents field research from four sites of civil war and victim commemoration within and surrounding Medellin, Colombia, focusing on the spatial relations between content and visitor and the methods for imparting information. Semi-structured interviews with memory scholars, professionals and community members and observational field notes support the study. The work also explores the histories behind the four sites prior to their transformation into memorial spaces. The analysis of the four distinct memorial spaces, paired with literature on human rights’ memorials and museums, transitional justice and the geograph(ies) of memory, becomes a tool for understanding not only the multi-actor decades’ long civil conflict and the remaining complex legacies of violence and displacement, but also questions what narratives might be obscured if commemoration becomes a benchmark for justice.

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