This thesis explores how young people affected by Colombia’s protracted conflict and living in situations of social exclusion actively understand and negotiate their everyday lives. The central argument of this thesis is that understanding how young people experience multiple violences and how they build resilience and peace in their everyday lives helps in theorising a more representative and constructive understanding of peacebuilding. Paying attention to the actual individuals who are often considered marginal in liberal peacebuilding narratives that focus on statist, institutional peace can strengthen and expand existing notions of ‘everyday peace’.
In furthering and complicating Oliver Richmond’s claim that the everyday is the essential zone of the political (2011: 143), this thesis proposes an embodied everyday, which recognises the narratives and lives of those living in marginalised situations: an embodied everyday-peace-amidst-violence. Supported through fieldwork conducted with conflict-affected young people living in the poor, peri-urban, illegal barrio of los Altos de Cazucá on the southern periphery of Colombia’s capital, Bogotá, this thesis examines how young people themselves understand and experience the spaces that they occupy and the narratives that uncritically locate the problem within their bodies.
Young people affected by conflict are often dichotomised as dangerous delinquents or passive victims. Both these characterisations fail to recognise the agency of young people and as a result deem them unworthy of inclusion in active understandings of constructing peace. However, the voices of young people that underpin this thesis reject such simple categorisations. Young people’s narratives demonstrate their understanding of spatial insecurities and spatial boundaries that circumscribe their experiences, and which they actively negotiate in the process of challenging their impacts. Furthermore, they understand the presence and existence of multiple violences and the way in which these varied forms of violence regulate and affect their lives. Despite, and because, of this they articulate desires and aspirations for the future, invoking community, belonging and hopes in such narratives. These explorations recognise that an everyday peace can and does exist within an ongoing system of violence. This recognition extends understandings of the everyday by arguing that it cannot be reduced merely to a notion of resistance to the liberal peace. Rather, an embodied everyday peace, comprised of individuals, draws on narratives and practices of resistance, resilience, collective belonging, and aspirations for a different future.
By engaging seriously with the experiences of conflict-affected young people, this thesis adds to a growing literature within international relations that recognises young people as competent and contributory. This thesis extends existing understandings of everyday peace to better account for young people’s experiences and narratives, and through this contributes to a more inclusive, more constructive understanding of peace originating in everyday practice.