Life after Insurgency: Reintegration of Colombian Ex-Combatants after the 2016 Peace Agreement
The 2016 peace agreement between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) brought thousands of combatants to the cusp of civilian life and their full political, social and economic reintegration is a key determinant of post-conflict stabilisation and future peace negotiations. Succinctly defined as the process by which former combatants gain civilian status and sustainable livelihoods, reintegration is often criticised for its overblown expectations and unclear ends and has been considered, among experts, as the most problematic post-conflict endeavour. By approaching reintegration exclusively from a top-down perspective and focusing excessively on assessing programmes based on externally imposed criteria, the meaning and content of sustainable reintegration from the standpoint of the ex-combatants have remained largely under-researched. Hence, the proposed research aims to offer a nuanced approach to the study of reintegration, which focuses on lived experiences rather than programmatic ends. It also aims to explore reintegration, not as an external intervention, but rather as a set of processes embedded within the lived experiences of ex-combatants and their communities. More specifically, the project will enquire what ‘reintegrating into society’ means for the ex-FARC guerrillas in one of the 26 reintegration areas of rural Colombia and how this notion relates to other complex post-conflict accommodation processes. Methodologically, the project will privilege life history inquiry in order to explore the role that human agency, political ideology, and social relations play in the ex-FARC’s reintegration experience. Life histories will be complemented by observations and in-depth interviews with community members, ex-combatants’ relatives, and practitioners. This research aims to make an original contribution to existing studies on reintegration, conflict resolution, post-conflict violence, political transitions, and peacebuilding.