May 4, 2012

the end is near!

I'm (finally!) defending my dissertation on Monday.  Good vibes welcome!
The final title is:
Making Space for Peace: International Protective Accompaniment in Colombia (2007-2009)
the abstract:
International accompaniment is a strategy used in conflict zones that puts people who are less at risk literally next to people under threat because of their work for peace and justice.  Thousands of human rights workers, grassroots organizations, and communities have been protected in this way since 1983.  There are now international accompaniers working with 24 organizations in ten countries.  Colombia is the country with the largest number of international groups. 
I spent 15 months in Colombia holding ongoing conversations with accompaniers about how accompaniment works, or to use Peace Brigades’ slogan, how it ‘makes space for peace.’  Paradoxically accompaniers use the fact that their lives ‘count’ more (because of passport/economic/racial privilege), to build a world where everyone’s lives ‘count’..  I was hoping that accompaniment was using privilege in such a way that it could ‘use it up’.  I did not find that, but I argue that accompaniment can wear down the structures that grant privilege unequally – but it can also reinforce those, depending on how it is done.  It is easier for accompaniers to fall into colonial patterns and reinforce structures of domination that make some lives worth more than others when they understand themselves as nonpartisan civilian peacekeepers.  It is also easier to fall into those traps when accompaniers see space as abstract and elide how race and other privileges shape their work. To change structures of domination, accompaniment needs not only to leverage difference, but also simultaneously build connections across difference and distance, through chains of solidarity. 

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