Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2018

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

First Advisor

L. Kaifa Roland

Second Advisor

Donna M. Goldstein

Third Advisor

Myriam Jimeno

Fourth Advisor

Carla Jones

Fifth Advisor

Carole McGranahan


Colombia—home to one of the world’s longest lasting armed conflicts—is currently in the midst of a profound transformation. Over five decades of war are drawing to a close while the Colombian government continues the fraught process of reconciliation. In this critical moment, my dissertation analyzes reparation-mediated encounters between victims of conflict and state reparation administrators as constituting an emerging politics of visibility, in which victims must visibilizarse (make themselves visible) in order to access their rights and reparations. Victim visibility, is not just about victims’ making their experiences visible to the state in order to receive reparations. It is also about the state and its (urban) citizens seeing and becoming conscious of the victim population and the pervasive effects of war. This dissertation builds on over 15 months of multi-sited ethnographic research with two primary groups: (1) the institutional entities that oversee Colombia’s ongoing reparation and reconciliation process and (2) the communities in the predominantly Afro-Colombian rural region of María la Baja, Bolívar that are trying to gain access to their rights as victims. I examine this process through the concept of “critical visibility,” which highlights the oppressive and innovative ways in which victimhood is constructed through acts of visual display and bodily performance. In parallel, critical visibility tracks the way images and public acts reverberate across the political landscape and take on new meanings—sometimes different from the creator’s intention. Through the concept of critical visibility, I expose how—even in times of “peace”—the requirement of visibility perpetuates systematic violence and marginalization against victim communities, especially those of rural and ethnic minority backgrounds. Further, I highlight the creative ways in which these communities transform this requirement into a tool that challenges simplified notions of their victimization and subjectivities.


Advisor: Jennifer Shannon