Concrete Peace: Building Security in Colombia

Austin Zeiderman, LSE

CURA/ PPP seminar

Date and time: 16th May 2019, 4-6pm

Venue: Hugh Aston Building, Room HU2.06, DeMontfort University

Abstract

Public and scholarly debates in Colombia frequently gloss the work required to achieve peace as la construcción del posconflicto, or “the construction of the post-conflict.” These debates usually surround the question of how to build the legal and bureaucratic institutions necessary for transcending a half-century of violence and ensuring a stable and lasting transition. Less attention is being given, however, to the work of building post-conflict Colombia in a concrete, physical sense. Focusing on the nationwide process of development aimed at laying the material foundations of a new society, this article examines the political potency attributed to the built environment at this critical conjuncture. Taking inspiration from a felicitous phrase coined by the Ministry of Transport’s Twitter account, #PazEnConcreto, it highlights the real-and-imaginary work that goes into building a “concrete peace” through the construction of things like roads, airports, and bridges. How exactly can peace be built out of substances like concrete? By examining two infrastructure projects endowed with the power to bring about peace and prosperity, the first objective is to shed light on the model of security and development according to which Colombia’s future is being imagined, designed, and built. The second objective is consider what these cases suggests about the political agency of the material world. Fine-grained analysis of both the political imagination and the lived experience of peacebuilding reveals the relationship between infrastructure and peace, and the capacity of the former to generate the latter, to be thoroughly contingent. Building infrastructure may produce the conditions for peace, it may reactivate latent dynamics of conflict, or it may do nothing at all.

 

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