Transitions between violence and peace in Latin America

The Laboratory studies the transitional nature of peace. In this light, peace is not understood as a state which can be definitely achieved nor a high point of the development of a certain society. Rather, peace is understood as a process in continuous change, affected by various political, social, economic and cultural factors. Thus, peace does not work as a transcendental vision but, on the contrary, as an immanent becoming, always intimately linked to the specific context of such process.

By orienting its approach to the complexity of the concept and the various forms that it can take in different historical moments, regions and societies, the Laboratory analyses peace historical notions, understood as historically possible peaces. Their study is based on a wider concept of peace which could be called “imperfect peace” (Charles Webel 2007).

The Laboratory is framed by Conflict and Peace Studies, and it emphasizes Violence Studies. It is in this combination where its methodological input can be found. More specifically, and taking the transitional nature of peace and violence in Latin America into consideration, the Laboratory offers a critical notion of peace that seeks to explore its violent aspects—Peace for whom? How pacific is pacification? What does it mean to impose peace?—, as well as how the entanglements between peace and violence provide essential input for the understanding of both of them. It is assumed that it is not possible to completely overcome the opposition between peace and violence, that is, it is assumed that a peace that excludes all forms of violence cannot exist. Instead, the Laboratory attempts to progressively restrain violence and expand pacific forms of coexistence. By emphasizing the transitional nature of peace, it is possible to regain the term as the expression of a direct critic to violence. Peace, in other words, is displayed in the multiple active resistances to the various violence manifestations. Since the “fact of violence” is not definitively eliminated (Bernhard Waldenfels), peace is characterized by instability, and there is always the risk of the prevalence of violent conflict resolutions. Historical post-conflict constellations show that, once peace is achieved (along with its basic forms, such as ceasefire), it needs to be protected, strengthened and expanded.

Finally, this project understands that peace, apart from opposing to violence, reveals itself as a sui generis good which, by respecting the integrity of individuals’ vital sphere, opens up new horizons for societies. Presenting itself as an ethical norm, the concept of peace is operative and provides new and varied input for a scientific research which aims at understanding the violence crisis that currently blights Latin American societies and at formulating proposals to tackle it.