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Hendrikje Grunow


Affected by Conflict.
Affective Traces of the Past in Everyday Life among Bogota’s Upper Middle Class


The assumption that one has to know the past in order to not repeat it is a very common statement when speaking about times of violent conflict. This knowing about the past, however, alludes to European notions of the concept of history, which are based on written sources and a linear conception of time in which past, present, and future can be distinguished clearly. Yet, knowledge about the past comes in many different shapes. Far from being limited to written accounts or testimony, knowledge also reflects itself in everyday practices and affective sensations. The transmission of the past through generations and among them often works through these subtle sensations. In my dissertation project, I want to find out about these ways of knowing and relating to the past, exploring the affective qualities of everyday life in urban Colombia. The everyday or quotidian is here understood as that which repeats itself in the day-to-day, contradicting notions of progress and revealing its historicity precisely in and through repetition. Colombian history is characterized by many different experiences of violent conflicts and an equally diverse number of actors and interpretations as to what the roots, causes, and possible solutions to these conflicts are. Approaching the topic of being affected by conflict on a structural level implies not only taking into account the visible expressions of the armed conflicts. It also means paying attention to what else is meant by “being affected”, and how the specific affective position of the urban middle class is located within the broader social context. It is this background that inspires the guiding questions of my dissertation project: What does it mean today to be affected by conflict for Bogota‘s upper middle class? And—assuming that it is not even clear whether the conflict can be considered past—in what ways does it linger affectively in their everyday lives? Answering these questions, I will outline the ways in which members of the upper middle class construct themselves as different from members of other social classes precisely by and through their experiences of the conflict. Through ethnographic fieldwork, I hope to shed a light on both the ways in which members of the (upper) middle class affectively relate to the conflictive past and present, and how they are affected by the broader context of the country's ongoing conflict in their everyday lives.


memory, historical consciousness, affect, emotion, Colombia, the ordinary


  • Since 2015 – Graduate School "The Problem of the Real in the Culture of Modernity", Universität Konstanz
  • 2014 – MA in Interdisciplinary Latin American Studies, Freie Universität Berlin, Universidad de los Andes and Universität Bern
  • 2011 – BA in Social and Cultural Anthropology, Freie Universität Berlin and Universität Zürich
  • 2009-2014 Scholarship from the Heinrich Böll Foundation