2015-2016 Colloquium Series

The Tourism Studies Working Group is pleased to announce

A Case Study of Medellin, Colombia

Patrick Naef, PhD
(Postdoctoral Scholar, Anthropology, UC Berkeley)

Friday, Sep 18, 5:00 PM - 7:00 PM
Gifford Room, 221 Kroeber Hal
University of California, Berkeley
Although Colombia is still at war, numerous memorial projects related to the armed conflict and involving the Colombian army, paramilitaries, guerrillas and narco-traffickers are already taking place all over the country. The city of Medellin has been particularly affected by the war, which started more than fifty years ago. From the 1980s to the early 2000s, the peripheral comunas around Medellin saw a significant increase in the number of street gangs, which was followed by the infiltration of guerrilla groups. These developments led to various military operations, backed by paramilitary forces, to ‘clean up’ these urban areas.

Nowadays, the city of Medellin is often singled out as a successful illustration of urban revitalization and innovation, a process labeled as the ‘transformation of the city’. Memorial initiatives relating to the war and the ‘narco-heritage’ – such as museums, memorials, artistic and touristic projects – have also started to develop in Medellin. Many are initiated by civil society actors, and public authorities have provided support for some of them. In this context, narratives around the war and narco-heritage are mobilized within the tourism sector, producing conflicting dynamics: on the one hand, the city would like to turn its back on its dark past, as illustrated by its process of transformation, while on the other hand, its history of violence constitutes an important tourist resource for private entrepreneurs. This contribution will first look at the links between tourism and war by briefly exploring several international cases (e.g. Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Vietnam, Poland) and then will address the case of Colombia specifically, focusing on the city of Medellin.

Speaker Bio:
Patrick Naef is a postdoctoral scholar in the Department of Anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley. His main areas of research are around memory and violence. He is currently conducting research in the city of Medellin, in Colombia, looking at memory work in some peripheral neighborhoods, which are commonly referred as ‘comunas’ and often associated with violence, war and the drug trade. Patrick Naef holds a PhD in cultural geography from the University of Geneva. His dissertation looks at conflicts of memory within the cultural heritage management and tourism sectors in Sarajevo, Srebrenica (Bosnia-Herzegovina) and Vukovar (Croatia). His research in Eastern Europe, South America and South-East Asia has led him to examine notions such as identity, tourism, war, genocide, nationalism and representation.

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