The opening weeks of 2017 provided dramatic images of what commentators around the world termed “the FARC’s final march”: the historic demobilization of Latin America’s oldest insurgent force. Less remarked upon are the personal stories that have emerged as the FARC’s 6,200 fighters exit the jungle, accounts that subtly challenge longstanding notions of the FARC as a Marxist revolutionary group set on the seizure of political power.
This talk explores the origins of those established narratives in the context of the FARC’s first march in the mid-1960s—how certain ideas about violence came to configure our understanding of recent Colombian history. Moving beyond Cold War-centered analyses of Latin American history in the 1960s, the talk focuses on the local, regional, and national dynamics of Colombians’ debates over peace and violence. The lead-up to the FARC’s first march demonstrates how violence between rural Colombian Communists and the Colombian state was not preordained. Instead, it was the precisely the breakdown of efforts to avoid violence that gave rise to the chronicles of inevitability and revolution that continue to define contemporary Colombia.
Robert A. Karl is an Assistant Professor of History at Princeton University. His book, Forgotten Peace: Reform, Violence, and the Making ofContemporary Colombia, was published in early April by the University of California Press as part of its new series on Violence in Latin American History. Dr. Karl received his Ph.D. from Harvard University in 2009, and his A.B. in History, summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa from Dartmouth College, where he graduated as a Presidential Scholar with High Honors in 2003. He is also the author of the recently published “Reading the Cuban Revolution from Bogotá, 1957-62,” in Cold War History 16, 4 (2016). Dr. Karl is currently the Santander Visiting Scholar at the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies at Harvard University.
Sponsored by the Department of History, Society of Fellows, Office of Alumni Relations, and LALACS