Language and Societies

ANT/LIN 5320 at Wayne State University

Testimonios of Violence: A Discourse Analysis of Colombian Demobilized Paramilitaries

Testimonios of Violence: A Discourse Analysis of Colombian Demobilized Paramilitaries

Andrés Romero

Amidst the demobilization efforts launched by the Colombian state to bring closure to the longest civil war in the Western Hemisphere, various coalitions between human rights and journalist organizations have endeavored to document the testimonios of former right-wing paramilitary agents. While the literature on narrative and the anthropology of violence has focused extensively on those whom violence has been waged, less has been written on those who do the violence. This article examines how individuals talk about doing violence. How is the transgressive act of killing indexed? Do individuals talk about violence through explicit means? Or do they resort to “linguistic containments” and address doing violence through more subtle and implicit ways? Focusing on seventy-one video clips provided by human rights and journalist organizations, this articles examines the testimonios given by eleven demobilized paramilitaries. This article argues that while the means through which one talks about doing violence may vary, the transgression of talking about doing violence is suspended by indexing one’s own subjection to mechanisms that extend beyond one’s own agency—which propel one to do violence. This argument, by extension, problematizes narrative genres on violence that describe events through the mutually exclusive categories of “victim” and “victimizer”—which oversimplify how acts of violence ought to be understood. Additionally, particular bodily practices of killing and dismembering others as described by these demobilized paramilitaries stem from larger historical practices that can be traced to other historical junctures of extreme violence in Colombia, and thereby should be understood as embodied practices that are part of a larger historical continuum of how violence ought to be enacted contextually.


April 6, 2015 - Posted by | abstract


  1. I am sure you’re correct that the literature on the victims of violence is far larger than that analyzing the perpetrators. Probably one of the best sources of the latter would be the literature surrounding the operations of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

    Comment by Dan Harrison | April 6, 2015 | Reply

  2. I am not really familiar with this topic but you make an excellent point that there is more literature on those that are the victims rather than the victimizer. I know in African American/Africana literature there is an overabundance of material about liberation from oppression and how they, as the victims have tried to overcome and dealt with those issues. It was not until I read a book entitled “If it weren’t for man” by Stephen Boyd, who is a theologist, that really talked about how man, who is a victimizer of women, and white men who are victimizers of black men and women, that I really got a sense of how the creation of one’s identity and the exertion of their authority means creating an inferior identity. This was the first book I ever read where a white man identified his race as the victimizers, while I am sure there is more literature that makes this argument, it was my first experience with this topic. While this has nothing really to do with your research, it is curious to see the perspectives of those that identify themselves as the victimizers and how it has shaped their identity.

    Comment by Theia | April 20, 2015 | Reply

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