War and gender : rethinking harmful research practices in the year 2021.


A Colombian professor and lawyer reflect on how research can function as a complement to calm, but also as a catalyst for further conflict and damage.

war versus gender in gender, harmful research practices 2021 ichhori.com

The 2016 Peace Agreement in Colombia attracted a wave of foreign and domestic academic research. One of the innovations that have captivated the eye of students of transition and armed conflict is that the gender focus of the Agreement, a political achievement of Colombian feminist organizations that synthesizes a commitment of quite 20 years for the visibility and therefore the judicialization of sexual and gender crimes committed during the conflict, among other aspects.

However, the explosion of research on conflict, transition, and gender led to overexposure and saturation of local actors like organizations, victims, and researchers, which generated wear-and-tear and questionable practices on the amount of ethical knowledge production and security. A goal for 2021 is to know these practices and seek their transformation.

Until recently I worked at an NGO to promote the visibility of the situation of LGBT people who are victims of the armed conflict in Colombia. Those conversant in the work of human rights defenders know that it involves an outsized number of activities: litigation, investigation, advocacy, attention, and therefore the direct documentation of victims.

After many setbacks in 2017, the implementation of the Agreement during 2018 brought with it a replacement task that might occupy a crucial part of the agenda of the team I was working with: countless Colombian and foreign researchers curious about various questions on the connection between things of LGBT people rights and therefore the armed conflict. Making a moderate calculation, between 2019 and 2020, I invested 40 of my working hours conducting interviews with researchers.

Carrying out this sort of labour creates invisible burdens for those that are within the “passive” place of the investigation: emotional and physical fatigue, anxiety and in particular, the sensation that valuable information and time are going from our hands for what is going to ultimately be a footnote in a piece of writing we will never see.

These harmful practices must be a part of the conversations that we consider when walking the winding path of transition and which the investigations about human rights must take under consideration.

On the one hand, it is essential to recognize the reasons for its relevance. Research on sexual violence in war has made it possible to consolidate a strong international agenda that, formally a minimum of, has committed states and international actors to the fight against impunity for these forms of violence. Colombia has not been outside of this global trend. There is evidence of this is often within the preeminence of Colombian feminist organizations that made their way into the Peace Agreement and today fight tirelessly for the achievement of justice for the victims before entities like the Special Jurisdiction for Peace.

However, considering that the problems and actors involved are sensitive and vulnerable, certain practices can and will be transformed. One of them has to do with sources, a dilemma that plagues academics and journalists alike. What is particularly problematic is that the obsession with the direct and raw stories of the victims, since it leads us to think that the collective understanding and processing of the horrors of the conflict is merely possible within the presence of an unprocessed tale. In addition to curtailing our imagination, it exposes people to unnecessary sorts of re-victimization.

These harmful practices must be a part of the conversations that we consider when walking the winding path of transition and which the investigations about human rights must take under consideration.

A virtuous path ahead involves looking into more detail at what organizations and victims are already producing to dignify stories of violence. Last year, for instance, Colombia Diversa launched Celeste, an interactive platform through which anyone could find their star during a constellation of the life stories of LGBT people, who were victims of violence thanks to prejudicing inside and out of doors armed conflict. An investigation that uses Celeste as a source would not only be innovative but would contribute to the transformation of the canon by expanding what we consider to be legitimate sources of investigation.

Another issue is said to be the direct treatment of domestic investigators. The Bukavu Series (Silent Voices) project, a program of the University of Ghent that brings together academics from the worldwide North and South who question the moral dilemmas of this type of research, has found that the practice of assuming that those that work locally are less intellectually and technically qualified is prevalent.

Colombia is not the exception. Last year, for instance, a coalition of feminist lawyers, which I’m a part of, received the support of a world organization to initiate a dialogue with a think-tank from the Global North on expertise within the prosecution of sexual violence in armed conflicts. Upon the arrival of the experts, the exchange became more of an evaluation of our knowledge, so that they might make a diagnosis of the way to support our work.

To tackle this problem, it would be worthwhile, first, not to assume that the reason why pressing problems such as sexual violence in conflict is not resolved is due to the intellectual or political weakness of local researchers or activists, or even the victims themselves. Second, do the exercise of going to know in-depth the context during which it’s intended to develop the research and rigorously map the local intellectual production. This insistence on knowing the context is one among the recommendations most often suggested by researchers within the Global North burdened by the moral issues they encounter when conducting their research.

Colombia may be a country that has been producing high-quality analysis of its conflict for a minimum of four decades. Ignoring it is an irresponsible practice that reproduces inequalities from the point of view of knowledge production between the Global North and South, as it favours the vertical and foreign gaze over the local and implicated gaze of those who develop specialized knowledge a few conflicts that run through them.

At last, as I examined inside the start, these examinations cause enthusiastic and actual weakness in a way that impacts the security and respectability of nearby entertainers. The subject of the enthusiastic expenses of exploration is not new, but then it stays untouchable both in the scholarly community and inside the universe of activism. To stand up to this, it merits taking a look at the spearheading work that women’s activist associations in Colombia have progressed by advancing acts of care, security, and self-assurance as a key reason for the examination and backing of casualties of sexual brutality.

Consequently, it is fundamental to ask yourself before oversaturating the messages of associations with requesting and resolute solicitations for interviews: 1) have I explored enough through auxiliary sources and am I persuaded that the data I need I can’t get it in some other manner?; 2) am I ready to plan to guarantee that the consequences of my exploration will add to crafted by nearby entertainers whom I request to team up with my work? If the subsequent answer is negative, revaluated the earnestness of that declaration in your examination, or at least don’t plan to share the outcomes.

Understanding and adjusting these worries into more moral, reasonable, and safe practices for the respectability of neighbourhood entertainers might be an extraordinary method to advise ourselves that examination can work as a prudent supplement to peacebuilding, yet additionally as an impetus for additional contention and individual and aggregate injuries.



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