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When War Enters the Classroom


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An Ethnographic Analysis of the Relationships among School Community Members amidst Armed Conflict on the Colombian–Ecuadorian Border

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When War Enters the Classroom

  1. 1. D I A N A R O D R Í G U E Z G Ó M E Z E D . D . C A N D I D A T E - I E D T E A C H E R S C O L L E G E – C O L U M B I A U N I V E R S I T Y A C 4 2 0 1 5 WHEN WAR ENTERS THE CLASSROOM: An Ethnographic Analysis of the Relationships among School Community Members amidst Armed Conflict on the Colombian–Ecuadorian Border
  2. 2. Geographical Location
  3. 3. Social Relationships in the Border “We used to be friends. But one time he made the sign of a gun with his arm, and pretended to shot me. He did it several times. The first time I was cool, but later I thought, ‘He’s from Piñuña Negra [FARC territory], and there’s a lot of war there.’ I mean, we were pals. I ended our friendship. I was scared, I thought he was getting serious” (Student, March 2014)
  4. 4. Research Question: How do the relationships that students themselves have with armed-conflict actors shape their social relationships in school?
  5. 5. Why Affiliations with Armed Conflict Matter? I argue that these affiliations that students maintain with armed conflict actors are a form of social capital that shapes students’ positionality in the map of social relations within school.
  6. 6. Ethnographic Methods of Data Collection Participant Observation • Classes and recess (300 hours) • Teacher meetings (3) • Extracurricular activities: human rights workshops, soccer matches, local festivities and social events. Structured and Semi- Structured Interviews (91 interviews) • School administrators (7) • Teachers (14) • Parents (12) • Students between 13 and 17 years old (51) • NGO and UNHCR employees (2) • Civil servants (3) • Authorities (2)
  7. 7. Findings
  8. 8. Affiliations with Armed Conflict Actors Ecuadorian Army Sons and daughters of high-ranking military personnel Sons and daughters of low-ranking military personnel La Guerrilla Sons and daughters of high and low-ranking FARC members Sons and daughters of seasonal farmers that crop coca for the FARC Sons and daughters of individuals who traffic gasoline for the FARC Students who are employed by the FARC Students who are in train of being recruited by the FARC Civil Society Students who are officially recognized as refugees Students who are identified as asylum seekers or undocumented Students who are being persecuted by the FARC
  9. 9. Problematic Kinship  “Don’t bother Omar, then here comes [his] dad and gets you arrested” (Student, April 2014).  “The students who are from the battalion are told at home not to interact with youth who own weapons or are in the guerrilla. Then, they manage themselves prudently from away.” (Teacher I, April 2014)
  10. 10. “I taught her never to say proudly ‘My dad’s a [member of the] military’.” Instead, when she’s asked, “‘What’s your dad’s occupation?’ [she should say,] ‘My father is a salesman.’ Sometimes she complains, she says she’s a grown-up and she can’t lie anymore, but I say, ‘My love, this is a tiny, tiny lie’” (Mother, April 2014)
  11. 11. Seeking Economic Profit “I asked his peers about his constant absences. They told me he was trafficking gasoline [for the FARC] because he needed money to buy some materials he needed for the final project” (Teacher, December 2013).
  12. 12. Everlasting Affiliations: Recruitment “They remain cautious, isolated from the larger group, they stay in tiny little groups. They don’t play, they don’t joke, they don’t play pranks. They treat each other like—how can I put it? They are more serious, and when they talk they talk quietly and carefully so nobody else approaches them.” (School Administrator, October 2013)
  13. 13. Conclusions  The study documents how affiliations with war actors allowed to conceptualize a broader spectrum of relationships between students and armed conflict.  Affiliations with war actors serve as a form of social capital.  The one affiliation to war actors that has institutional recognition – being identified as a refugee – holds little relevance in this setting.  Ethnographic methods contribute to the fields of Education in Emergencies and Conflict and Education by calling attention to the materiality of the armed conflict in the analysis of social relationships.
  14. 14. Thank you!