Panel Examines Violence
Published: Friday, September 14, 2012
Updated: Friday, September 14, 2012 02:09
Three experts on the violence in Colombia discussed their work at a panel on Wednesday.
The event, called “Immortal Joy and Furrows of Pain: Terror and Testimony in Colombia,” was organized by the Lannan Center for Poetics and Social Practice and featured photographer Stephen Ferry and writers Sibylla Brodzinsky and Max Schoening.
Photographer Harry Mattison served as moderator for the discussion and showed photos from his experiences documenting the conflict in El Salvador during the 1970s and 1980s.
One image featured rows of massacred victims with a crowd looking on and a priest photographing the bodies.
“Why was the priest taking pictures?” Mattison said. “Because no one would believe.”
The event emphasized this sense of disbelief, which Ferry illustrated by presenting images from his book “Violentology” — named after a Latin American field of study that examines conflict, called violentología.
“I realized it’s far more severe, far more complex, than I had imagined,” Ferry said about the Colombian violence.
He traced the history of violence in the South American country to La Violencia, a civil war between the country’s liberal and conservative parties that gripped the country during the 1940s and 1950s. The end of the war, however, did not bring a stop to the violence. Since then, government forces, a leftist insurgency and right-wing paramilitaries have jockeyed for control of this volatile region.
“The reaction to [the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia] was the paramilitary movement, which was a cure worse than the disease,” Ferry said.
He described how the paramilitaries joined with drug traffickers to create an unholy alliance against the leftist guerrillas, which caused violence in Colombia to increase.
Brodzinsky and Schoening also presented excerpts from a collection of oral histories that they edited “Throwing Stones at the Moon.”
The excerpts included the stories of survivors of the conflict.
“A lot of them continue to live in dire situations,” Schoening said of his interviewees for the book. “There’s a limit to the regeneration that could happen through the process of storytelling.”
While the violence has subsided, Brodzinsky noted that the country still faces a long path to recovery.
“There are certainly fewer massacres, kidnappings [and] killings than 10 years ago, but it’s by no means over,” she said. “The situation in Colombia will remain violent for many years.”
Students who attended the panel had strong emotional reactions.
“I felt like I could really connect with the images,” Katherine Everitt (COL ’13) said. “Any word I could use is too shallow.”