Date of Award

Spring 2012

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Social and Cultural Foundations in Education


College of Education, Department of Educational Policy Studies and Research

First Advisor

Stephen Haymes, PhD

Second Advisor

Enora Brown, PhD

Third Advisor

Elizabeth Lozano, PhD


Colombia’s ongoing armed conflict has produced a myriad of types of violence as well as individual and social trauma. In the early 2000s, the proliferation of extrajudicial killings of non-combatant citizens by the Colombian armed forces left behind thousands of families to deal with the aftermath of their loss of a loved at the hands of the state. This phenomological research specifically looks in depth at the narratives of seven Colombian victims of state crimes that have been transformed through their experience of political violence and the actions they have taken in response to state crimes. Both individual and collective actions taken in response to the traumatic loss of a family member through state violence are examined as are meanings associated with their actions. The findings reveal that these actions are motivated by a deeply seeded sense of obligation to the self, the dead, and the country and that participating in collective actions creates a strong sense of belonging. By working with others, individual victims note a sense of belonging to a common victim community that provides them strength to carry out their obligation to take action in response to their traumatic loss due to state violence, but at the same time have noted that forms of social violence carried out at an organizational level have presented challenges to collective action participation. This research draws the conclusion that victim organizations within Colombia carry the possibility of fostering conversations about patterns of exclusion that may be upheld in their own victim community in order to provide a both/and approach to tackling both social and political violence collectively. The information revealed through this study reflects an important depth of information that exposes the paradoxes that define the victim experience, specifically both the strength and frustrations produced in collective victim spaces and contributes an in-depth exploration of victim experience as to promote an understanding of the important personal and collective impacts of state violence in Colombia.

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