Pilar Riaño-Alcalá: “Poetics and politics of Sound Memory and Social Repair”

The Social Justice Institute
Noted Scholars Series presents:

Dr. Pilar Riaño-Alcalá
Professor, School of Social Work, University of British Columbia

“Poetics and politics of Sound Memory and Social Repair

March 7, 12-1pm
1099 Buchanan Tower
1873 East Mall, UBC


All events are free and open to the public. RSVP’s are not required to attend, only encouraged.

In this talk, I explore sound memory in the Pacific Atrato river of Colombia where I have been engaged in memory reconstruction processes. In this region, a group of cantadoras —Black women singers of alabaos, traditional funerary chants sang during the burial and mourning rituals—, have recreated this expressive practice into a creative form of political action and social repair in the context of a five decades war that has deeply impacted their territory and worlds. Following some critical moments in which they performed at commemorative ceremonies, at the issuing of an official apology, in the signing of the National peace agreement or at the exhumation of those who were killed at a massacre, I interrogate how they remember violence and carve an awaken soundscape and how they interpellate “encounters” with transitional justice institutions imbricated in the reproduction of liberalist regimes of truth and justice.

Pilar Riaño-Alcalá is an anthropologist whose areas of interest focus on three intersecting themes: (1) the understanding of how mass violence is experienced in the everyday; (2) community-based approaches to questions of justice, memorialization and truth telling, and (3) oralities and social practice art. Since 2013, she has been working on a project merging themes of memory, violence and social repair to advance a conceptualization of memory as a contested social practice. She has done this through the ethnographic exploration of local initiatives of memory in Colombia and the claims, negotiations and representations they activate.

She is the author of “Dwellers of Memory. Youth and Violence in Medellin, Colombia” (Transaction Publishers, 2006) and the editor of “Remembering and Narrating Conflict. Resources for doing Historical Memory Work” (Centro Nacional de Memoria Histórica, 2013). She is the editor with Erin Baines of the Special Issue “Transitional Justice and the Everyday” (International Journal of Transitional Justice, 2013) and with Catherine Le Grand and Luis van Isschot of the Special Issue “Land, Memory and Justice: Challenges for Peace” (Canadian Journal of Latin America and Caribbean Studies, 2017).