UCL Anthropology


Gwen Burnyeat

UCL Email: gwen.burnyeat.16@ucl.ac.uk  
Websites: https://lab.org.uk/category/blogs/gwen-burnyeats-colombia-blog/ and http://chocolatedepaz.com/english
Year of Start: 2016
Supervisors: Dr Lucia Michelutti and Prof Michael Stewart
Subject: Social Anthropology
Fieldsite: Colombia

PhD Research

Communicating the Colombian Peace Policy: An Ethnography of State Bureaucrats

The Havana Accord signed between the Colombian state and the left-wing FARC guerrilla (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) ended fifty years of war. Negotiations took four years (2012-2016), and a narrative began circulating that there was a need for 'peace pedagogy': communicating the peace process to Colombian society, informing citizens about contents of the Havana Accord, initially to equip them with information to vote in the 'peace referendum' of October 2016. After 50.2% voters rejected the first draft of the agreement, following a highly polarised campaign characterised by misinformation, a revised deal was signed which began to be implemented in December, and 'peace pedagogy' by FARC, civil society and the state continues, though what different actors understand by it, and the strategies they employ, may be different.

This study will conduct an ethnography of the Office of the High Commissioner for Peace (OACP), the main government institution responsible for orchestrating and communicating the peace policy. It pursues two central aims: firstly, to document ethnographically how state bureaucrats communicate the national peace policy to Colombian society; secondly, to use this data to develop an empirically-grounded analytical framework for the study of transitional processes such as peace-building, in which policy communication provides a window into the relationship between state and society. This analysis will contribute to anthropological debates about the state, as the 'peace pedagogy' mode of action of state officials contributes to the imaginative and material (re-)production of the Colombian state.

Research Interests

  • Anthropology of the state
  • Anthropology of policy
  • Anthropology of bureaucracy
  • History of Colombia
  • Colombian internal armed conflict
  • Colombian peace process (2012-2016)


Academic Publications
  • Chocolate, Politics and Peace-Building: An Ethnography of the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó, Colombia. Palgrave Macmillan 2018. http://www.palgrave.com/us/book/9783319514772
  • 'Rupture' and the State: The 'Radical Narrative' of the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó. 2017. Antípoda. Revista de Antropología y Arqueología 29, at http://revistas.uniandes.edu.co/doi/full/10.7440/antipoda29.2017.01
  • 'On a Peak in Darién: Community Peace Initiatives in Urabá, Colombia'. 2013. In Journal of Human Rights Practice 5 (3), Oxford University Press, pp435-445. 
  • 'Una barrera a la paz: polarización en el debate colombiano de víctimas'. 2010. In Revista Javeriana, No. 768, Tomo 146, Año 77, pp30-43.
Literary Publications
  • 'Two Rivers'. 2014. In The Dublin Review (56), pp29-40. ISSN: 1393-998X (Short Story)
  • 'The Banana Republic of Urabá'. 2015. In Doherty de Novoa, Caroline, McColl, Richard and Kellaway, Victoria (eds) Was Gabo an Irishman? Tales from Gabriel García Márquez's Colombia. Papen Press, pp53-68. ISBN-13: 978-9584662026 (Literary essay)
  • 'Asunción', in Capitals: A Poetry Anthology. Bloomsbury 2017. (poem)
Political Analysis
  • Commissioned articles on the Colombian peace process published in the print version of the London Review of Books (LRB) as well as the LRB Blog
  • Multiple blogs for Latin America Bureau (LAB) about the Colombian peace process, both macro perspectives about policy developments and grassroots perspectives with an ethnographic focus, at: https://lab.org.uk/category/blogs/gwen-burnyeats-colombia-blog
  • Many of these blogs have been reprinted by other platforms, for example Latino Life magazinePolitical Settlements Research Program Blog, and the University of Edinburgh's Global Justice Program.

Presentations & Conferences 

November 2016. 'Civil Society in Transitional Geopolitical Conjunctures: Colombia's Hidden Peace Processes'. Seminar presentation, Seminar for the Study of Violence (SSV), Wolfson College, University of Oxford.
February 2017. ''Rupture' and the State: The Radical Narrative of the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó' Conference Paper, 'Rupture' Conference, Department of Anthropology, University College London.
April 2017. 'Translating the Peace Process: Between Policy and Society in Colombia's Transitional Conjuncture'. Annual Conference of the Society for Latin American Studies (SLAS), University of Glasgow.
May 2017. 'Translating the Peace Process: Between Policy and Society in Colombia's Transitional Conjuncture'. Seminar Presentation, London Transitional Justice Network (LTJN), Seminar for Research in Progress, held at the University of East London.
May 2017.  'Chocolate, Politics and Peace-Building: An Ethnography of the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó'. Conference Paper, OxPeace Annual Peace Studies Day-Conference: 'Positive Peace: Concepts and Practice', St John's College, University of Oxford.
August 2017 (forthcoming). 'Communicating the Colombian Peace Process: Preliminary Findings'. Conference Paper, Peace and Conflict Studies in Anthropology (PACSA) biannual conference, on a panel I am co-chairing called Ethnographic Explorations of Heterogeneity, Representation and Legitimacy in the Colombian Peace Process, University of Amsterdam.

Teaching Experience

Aug 2015-June 2016, Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Bogotá. 
Lecturer in Political Anthropology on the Political Science undergraduate course, faculty of Law and Political and Social Sciences. 

I designed the course with a special focus on ethnographies of the Colombian armed conflict and the development of analytical tools with which to approach the peace process of 2012-2016.

Education History

  • Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Bogotá, 2014-2015. Masters in Social Anthropology. Thesis awarded Merit, academic average 4.8/5
  • University of Cambridge, 2008-9. Masters in European Literature and Culture, Distinction.
  • University of Leeds, 2005-8. BA in English Language and Literature, First-Class Honours.

Honours, Awards & Funding

  • The Wolfson Foundation Postgraduate Scholarship for the Humanities, September 2016-July 2019
  • The Leverhulme Trust Study Abroad Studentship, Jun 2014-Dec 2015
  • Scholarship from Colombian government institute ICETEX (Colombian Institute for Educational Credit and Technical Study Abroad) for foreign postgraduate students in Colombia, Jan 2014-Dec 2015. 

Additional Information

  • Invited speaker on Colombian peace process at non-academic venues across the UK such as Canning House, the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), and St Ethelburga's Centre for Reconciliation and Peace.
  • Produced and Co-directed award-winning ethnographic documentary 'Chocolate of Peace' (2016), together with Colombian co-director and cameraman/editor Pablo Mejía Trujillo, parallel to Masters thesis research and funded by an independent UK philanthropic donor.
  • Website for film: http://chocolateofpeace.com designed together with Colombian web designer Francisco Ramirez Rosales, also funded by the UK philanthropic donor.
  • Developed film into a peace pedagogy tool, and have screened the film and done peace pedagogy workshops in over 50 screenings across Colombia in the run-up to the peace referendum in 2016
  • The film has won awards in the festivals Muestra Internacional Documental de Bogotá (MIDBO), SiembraFest, el Festival Internacional de Cine por los Derechos Humanos de Bogotá and el Festival Internacional de Cine de los Derechos Humanos de Argentina
  • The film has been translated into English, German, Italian and Polish and screened in many cinemas and universities across the UK, Austria, Poland, Germany, Italy, USA, Mexico, Argentina and Canada, usually with my or my co-director's participation speaking about the Colombian peace process.
  • Member of Rodeemos el Diálogo (ReD) and participant, organiser or speaker in peace workshops, conferences and related events across Colombia and the UK.