The violence perpetrated by criminal narco-gangs represents one of the major challenges to the achievement of sustainable peace in Colombia. Since 2015, Dr. Elena Butti has been conducting ethnographic fieldwork with adolescents involved at the low-ends of these criminal groups in and around Medellín, Colombia’s second biggest city. In this talk, she will discuss the complex feelings of ambivalence and self-blame that permeate these young people’s first steps into crime, and their repeated efforts to change the course of their lives. While climbing the criminal ladders is an ontological necessity, these youth are also fundamentally unsure about what they are doing, and often dream about a different, ‘normal and good’ life, and try out different strategies to achieve it. Their attempts to change life are often frustrated, however, sometimes with tragic consequences. Theoretically, this talk examines the comparative usefulness of the conceptual frames of ‘uncertainty’ and ‘precarity’ to frame the lives of adolescents who move their first steps into crime. Practically, it discusses how these insights can be employed to inform better violence prevention policies at the urban margins.
about the speaker
Dr. Elena Butti is an anthropologist, humanitarian practitioner and participatory film-maker interested in the lives of young people at the urban margins. Currently, she is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Centre on Conflict, Development and Peacebuilding of the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies (IHEID) in Geneva, where she is working on her book project, an ethnographic exploration of adolescents’ first steps into drug-related crime in contemporary Colombia. She holds a PhD and a Post-Doc from the University of Oxford. She has collaborated with several international organizations on matters related to the Youth, Peace and Security agenda. More recently, she worked as Global Youth Advisor for the humanitarian NGO War Child. She is also the author of several participatory films co-directed with young people in Colombia. More at www.elenabutti.com.
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