Biography

Pilar Riaño-Alcalá is a professor at the Social Justice Institute and co-lead of the Memory and Justice Research Stream. She is an anthropologist and interdisciplinary scholar. Her research interests are on historical memory and the lived experience of violence in the afterlives of mass violence, the ethnography of living traces of memory and social repair; oralities and sound memory and social practice art. Pilar also has an interest in exploring the politics of knowledge and epistemic justice through the use of emplaced and creative research methodologies that draw on other knowledges and that centrally locate action and change in knowledge production. She is currently working on three projects, Transformative Memory: An International Network (with Erin Baines, UBC); Exhumations and Reburial in Colombia (with the Committee of Victims of the Middle Atrato River) and Sacred Responsibilities to Water. Indigenous Knowledge Exchanges, Canada-Colombia (with Aimée Craft, University of Ottawa).

Pilar is the author of “Dwellers of Memory. Youth and Violence in Medellin, Colombia” (Transaction Publishers, 2006, ebook Routledge, 2017) and “Poniendo Tierra de por medio. Migracion forzada de colombianos en Colombia, Ecuador y Canada (Corporación Región and UBC, 2008) and is currently working on the book manuscript, “In the Interstices of War and Peace: Memory and Social Repair in Colombia.” Her articles have appeared in Memory Studies, the International Journal of Transitional Justice, Refugee Survey Quarterly, Estudios Politicos, among others. With Natalia Quiceno, she is the editor of the Special Issue, “To Think with the River: Political Action and Trajectories of Life and Death in the Atrato” (Revista Colombiana de Antropología, 2020); with Erin Baines of the Special Issue “Transitional Justice and the Everyday” (International Journal of Transitional Justice, 2012), and with Catherine Le Grand and Luis van Isschot the Special Issue “Land, Memory and Justice: Challenges for Peace” (Canadian Journal of Latin America and Caribbean Studies, 2017). She coordinated the publication of “Remembering and Narrating Conflict. Resources for doing historical memory work” (2013) and co-created with Maria Luisa Morena and Weilder Guerra the multimedia publication “Stories with GPS. A Mythic and Historic Geography of La Guajira.”

For over twenty years, she has collaborated with public performance artist Suzanne Lacy on the public art project “The Skin of Memory” and related installations (Yerbabuena Center for the Arts and MOMA, 2019; the 8th Floor Gallery of the Shelley and Donald Rubin Foundation, New York, 2018; AD&A Museum at UC Santa Barbara, 2017; and Museo de Antioquia, Art Biennale, 2011).

As a public intellectual, Pilar has conducted extensive research and expert work in non-academic settings with various community-based organizations (Corporación Región, Medellin, Justice and Reconciliation Project, Uganda, the Committee for the Rights of the Victims, Choco) and in the context of peace building and historical memory work in Colombia. She was appointed as a researcher of the Historical Memory Group (2008-2013), a research group comprising researchers and experts that was tasked under the Colombian Law of Peace and Justice with producing a report on the origins and causes of the armed conflict in Colombia. She was an advisor to the Museum of Historical Memory of Colombia (2015-2019) for the development of its conceptual guidelines and script.