Interview with Ariel Sanchez, author of “Knowledges of the War: Memory and Intergenerational Understandings of Conflict in Colombia”
By Marcela Ramos
How education might contribute towards processes like peacebuilding? How education can promote knowledge and skills to build a culture of peace and non-violence? These questions highlight some of the challenges set by the sustainable development goals (SDGs) in times where the role of education in the promotion of a culture of peace and non-violence commands widespread global attention. Within that context, to know and understand some of the key features of the research undertaken by Ariel Sanchez in Colombia is particularly illuminative.
In his book “Los saberes de la guerra: Memoria y conocimiento intergeneracional del conflicto en Colombia” (Knowledges of the War: Memory and Intergenerational Understandings of Conflict in Colombia) (2017), Sanchez approaches the topic of peace building from two interesting and unexpected angles: the experience of conflict and the voices, reflections and memories of young people from different parts of Colombia. He engaged with students from private and public schools, girls, boys and mixed schools, urban and rural schools, mestizos and indigenous, who grew up within a context of an internal armed conflict, which lasted over 40 years. “Their voices were recorded through their responses of questionnaires (…) The questionnaire allowing anonymity to provide answers that I don’t think they would be able to give face to face”, explained Sanchez. Among the unexpected findings was that Pablo Escobar, leader of Medellin Cartel, the most violent organization involved in narco-trafficking, was mentioned by youngsters as one of their favourite Colombian historical figures.
-What do you think when you realise how alive is the image of Pablo Escobar?
-Escobar is a ghost you cannot get rid of. Maybe if it comes back once and again, instead of running away from that image, what we need to do is to incorporate it into the institutional educational dynamics, to avoid that image being reproduced exclusively by the media in the way the media does.
-Among the aims of the book is to present how young people in Colombia understand their country’s past, present and future. Why is it important to put the focus on young people?
-Peace education has been implemented without asking students or teachers how they understand peace. (The aim was) to listen to the new generations to hear how they perceive themselves and others and create a proper initial diagnosis before assuming what we have inherited supposedly as a conflict (…) Those claiming to work and talk about peace and peace education did not even bother to listen to the new generation before setting a whole framework and defining whatever peace should look like and whatever peace should be wanted by the new generation. Finally, is about acknowledging them also as producers of knowledge, historical agents.
-Another interesting feature of the research is the role assigned to memory…
-This is a project of recognition of a constant unending process of reviewing our history and the way meaning is produced around that history; it’s also a way of making a transformative action story from different angles, on the assumption that memory is actually a generative epistemic process. In this way, the construction of memory is understood as a constant process, without any ultimate version. Thus conceived, memory can be understood as a mechanism of reconciliation.