In this audio-visual essay, I explore Colombian forensic experts’ embodied knowledge of the armed conflict, specifically about how it is accounted for and produced from and by their work. I argue that forensic experts’ embodied knowledge provides information not only on victim identification and the nuances of violence but also produces geographies of terror that materialize the overarching effect of protracted violence on a given territory and its people. I do so through their stories and their voices, and show that due to the magnitude of the armed conflict and the fact that it has spread all over the country, forensic experts have an extensive understanding of both the country’s geography and the dynamics of violence. This experience produces a version of the relationship between the two, which is marked and informed by forensic experts’ embodied experience of searching for and exhuming victims. However, from their experiences of dealing with the horrors of war, it also becomes evident that practices of reconciliation occur amidst the protracted violence and that they take place through, around, and with forensic practice.
I develop my argument in three steps: First, I focus on forensic experts’ experiences and enactments of Colombia as a country marked by violence, and how geography and violence have melded and as a result have produced geography that cannot be separated from the violence that it has endured. Second, I address the effect forensic experts’ work has on their bodies, which carry the inscriptions of the war in physical and emotional ways. Third, I focus on experiences, stories, and knowledge become sites of hope that make evident their role as actors.
Each step is accompanied by animated illustrations and sound–films. These contribute to and complement the narrative through the combination of forensic experts’ voices and illustrations of their main messages. The films are to be played and listened to where indicated in the text as they are counterparts to the stories and allow for silence and other voices (that are not mine) to be present simultaneously. In this sense, not all conclusions or statements are written. Instead, I open the space up to provide room for reflection, speculation, and imagination to be part of the experience of this piece. To do so, and to be able to attend to forensic experts’ experiences, we (the readers and I) must engage with their stories, listen to them, and take them seriously.
Key Words forensic knowledge, colombian armed conflict, body, landscape, reconciliation