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StrategicVillages Report Summary

Project ID: 654923
Funded under: H2020-EU.1.3.2.

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - StrategicVillages (Violent settlements: strategic villages and clandestine burial sites in Latin America)

Reporting period: 2016-02-01 to 2018-01-31

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

In contemporary warfare, the power to destroy cities exists alongside with the power to build urban places ex nihilo. In the 70s and 80s, various Latin American States forcedly displaced people to villages created as an instrument of counterinsurgency; at the same time massacres and forced disappearances occurred in these regions.
Based on qualitative fieldwork undertaken in Argentina and in Peru, my study aims at analysing for the first time the connection between mass violence and the forced creation of built environment. Framed within social anthropology, sociology and human geography, this research will produce a seminal in-depth study of the daily life among the strategic villages in Latin America, by analysing the experience of subjects that were forced to inhabit there.
Zones occupied by military interventions are subjected to multiple spatial reconfigurations. The building of strategic villages is a paradigmatic case of this type of State sponsored spatial violence. The forced urbanisation of people that lived in the countryside occurred, in Asia and in Africa in the 1950s and 1960s with the support of colonial powers, like for example: Great Britain built “New Villages” in Malaya or the USA constructed “Strategic Hamlet” in Vietnam. More recently, this same technique seems to be use again in the “war on terror” in the Middle East (in Afghanistan and Iraq). Strategic villages also appeared in the 1970s and 1980s in Latin America. So far few analyses have been done to inquire into the lived experience of subjects that were forced to inhabit the strategic villages in Latin America or the spatial and political impact of this military program.
The main goal of this research is to understand the social effects of violently reshaping space in zones of military occupation and, in particular, to analyse the precise cultural and social impact of the simultaneous creation of strategic villages and clandestine burial sites.

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

My analysis was focus on two different cases, both of which have special features that allow me to develop a rich and comparative analysis: the Argentinian case (1976-1983) and the Peruvian case (1980-2000). For conducting this comparative analysis, I used a interdisciplinary approach based on different methodology strategies (mainly archive work, interviews with state actors, and ethnographic work with displaced population). During the first year of the MSCA program, I work on the construction of strategic villages in the province of Tucumán and Chaco. The second year of the MSCA, 2017, I have done fieldwork in Peru (Lima and Ayacucho). Some of the results achieved during the outgoing phase were disseminated in the following research activities:
I gave lectures for Master and PhD students in: the Benemérita Universidad de Puebla (Mexico), Universidad de Buenos Aires (Argentina), Science Po, École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (France), and the Université de Queben à Montréal (Canada).With the aim of getting to know the experts working on my topic and to discuss my preliminary results and hypothesis, I have organized three workshops: (1) Workshop Development policies, space and violence in Latin America: an interdisciplinary discussion. Organized by the: EHESS, Université de Quebec à Montréal (UQAM), Université de Montréal (UdeM) et Réseau d’étude latino-americáines de Montreal (RELAM). Coordinated with Prof. Patricia Martin, 07/2017, Montréal (Qc). (2) Workshop Ciudad y dictadura. Proyectos urbanos de la última dictadura en Argentina (1976-1983). Organized by the: EHESS, IDES-CONICET. Coordinated with Valentina Salvi. 10/2016, Buenos Aires (Arg). (3) Workshop L’urbanisation comme instrument de guerre. La construction de villages stratégiques dans les politiques contre-insurrectionnelles. Organized by the IRIS-EHESS. 04/2016, Paris (Fr).
At the end of the outgoing phase, I was already published one book (Espacios de desaparición, Miño y Dávila 2017), coordinated 2 special issues (Cultures et Conflits 2016, Human Remains and Violence: an interdisciplinary journal 2016), and published 3 articles. I have also offered 12 different conferences to present preliminary research results, like for example at: the Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM, 11/2017), at the International Conference Problem-oriented policing and the rule of law in Latin America: overview and reflections (Université de Montréal, 11/2017, Montréal), at International Workshop Idea of Violence (Kent State University, 06/2017, Florence), at the Colloqium Memorias y territorios : escritura(s) de la Historia (Universidad de Los Andes, 05/2017, Bogota), at the International Colloqium Búsqueda de desaparecidos, intervención forense y procesos de duelo. Enfoque comparativo y balance sobre el caso peruano (Institut Français d’Études Andines, 04/2017, Lima), at the II International seminar Nuevos desafíos a los estudios sobre memoria en el contexto latinoamericano actual (RIEMS, 10/2016 Mar del Plata), at the research seminar Violencia Política y Resistencia’ (Universidad de Chile, 10/2016, Santiago de Chile), at the International congress Memoria verdad y justicia (Universidad Autónoma de la Ciudad de México, 04/2016).

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

The Marie Curie research program on “Strategic Villages” gave me an excellent opportunity to work on a topic almost unexplored until now: the construction of villages ex nihilo as a counter-insurgency strategy used by authoritarian regimes in Latin America (1970-1980). These years working on this topic led to the following significant progresses:
1. I studied the general features of the strategic villages program (Colombo 2018b);
2. I gathered, for the first time, articles working on different cases of strategic villages: Argelia, Guatemala, Argentina, Vietnam, Mozambique. This will help to open a debate on the global implementation of this public policy and its transnational circulation (Colombo 2018a);
3. I demonstrated that it existed a national plan of construction of strategic villages in Argentina, that included the province of Tucumán and Chaco (Colombo 208b);
4. I published one the rare ethnographic pieces about the everyday life inside the strategic villages (Colombo 2016).


Colombo, Pamela (2018a forthcoming) (Eds). Special issue « Les villages stratégiques ». In Critique Internationale. No79, avril-juin 2018. France. 

Colombo, Pamela (2018b forthcoming) « Les villages stratégiques : réaménagement territorial, regroupement de population et politiques contre-insurrectionelles », Critique International, (à paraître), No79, avril-juin. France
Colombo, Pamela (2018c forthcoming) « Construire (dans) les marges de l’État : les villages stratégiques comme politique de développement et de contre-insurrection (Chaco, Argentine, 1976-1978) », Critique International, (à paraître), No79, avril-juin 2018. France.
Colombo, Pamela (2016), « L’urbanisation forcée comme politique contre-insurrectionnelle. La vie au sein des villages stratégiques construits en Argentine (1976-1978) », Cultures et Conflits, 2016, No 103-104, automne-hiver, pp. 91-110. France.

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