Peacebuilding and Dance in Afro-Colombian Funerary Ritual

Sandra M. Rios Oyola, Thania Acaron

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


    This chapter analyses the intersection between cultural memory and public mourning from a body-based perspective. The analysis is based on ethnography of the re-enactment of funerary rituals in the ten year commemoration of the Massacre of Bojayá in Colombia. Funerary rituals could not be conducted in the aftermath of the massacre, where 48 children died inside a church. Traditional rituals include dance, songs and movements that aim to help the child soul to become an angelito [little angel], a protector for their families and godparents. However, the re-enactment of the rituals has additional political, social and cultural functions. The chapter argues that the activities and practices of dance mediate social transformation and can support peacebuilding and memorialization processes in settings where atrocities have recently occurred and where threats of violence are still present. It also present arguments for the importance of focusing on dance in conflict and in moving towards peace, which at times remains ‘unseen’ in peacebuilding literature. These claims are brought forward through a case study that explores how dance performances, in the form of funerary rituals performed in the annual commemoration of the massacre of Bojayá, Colombia, affect both those that perform as well as those who witness them. These rituals aim to mediate the memory of the grievances that have been committed and continue to occur within this community. In this context, the body in both material and symbolic form serves as a vehicle of resistance, expression, and visibility of the potential for transformation. The chapter concludes with a critical analysis of the social functions of dance in the context of peacebuilding and the challenges presented by this case study.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationPeacebuilding and the Arts
    EditorsJolyon Mitchell, Giselle Vincett, Theodora Hawksley, Hal Culbertson
    PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
    Number of pages19
    ISBN (Electronic)978-3-030-17875-8
    ISBN (Print)978-3-030-17874-1
    Publication statusPublished - 2020


    • Colombia
    • Afro-colombian
    • sociology
    • dance
    • trauma
    • body
    • dance movement therapy
    • embodiment
    • ritual
    • ethnology


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