Doctoral Student Explores Personal, Political Dimensions of Violence in Colombia

February 2, 2015
Diana Gomez Correal. Photo by Donn Young.

Diana Gomez Correal. Photo by Donn Young.

When Diana Marcela Gómez Correal considers the role of victims and the disempowered in political and social movements, she isn’t merely pursuing an academic question. Gómez Correal’s father, a local politician in Colombia, was forcibly disappeared in 2006. Despite her own efforts and the efforts of friends and family, no one knows what precisely happened to her father, though they claim his disappearance was politically motivated.

Today she is at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill as a member of the Royster Society of Fellows working on a doctorate in cultural anthropology, and she continues to raise her voice against the violence in Colombia.

“I need to make the Colombian situation visible,” she says. Gómez Correal describes her country as “a beautiful place where thousands of people struggle every day to create a better society, a society where men and women can live in peace with dignity.”

However, Colombia is also notorious for violence perpetrated by drug traffickers, paramilitary groups, guerrilla forces and the armed forces. Gómez Correal has fled to the U.S. multiple times to escape personal threats and violence and to extend her studies.

Gómez Correal completed a bachelor’s degree in anthropology and a master’s degree in history at the National University in Bogotá, Colombia. Her master’s thesis analyzed the rise and development of second wave feminism in Bogotá in 1970-1991 and she has since published a book on the topic, Dinámicas del movimiento feminist bogotano. Historias de cuarto, salon y calle. Historias de vida (1970-1991) [Dynamics of the Bogota Feminist Movement. Histories from the Bedroom, Meeting Room and the Street. Histories of Life (1970-1991)]. She will graduate from UNC in August 2015.

Gómez Correal chose UNC because of the presence of scholars and an intellectual community interested in her areas of study.

Listen NowDuring her first semester she took a course with Arturo Escobar about political ecology that helped deepen her intellectual positions. She reports that other courses have nurtured a critical and constructive perspective, including courses taught by Dorothy Holland, Christopher Nelson, Margaret Wiener, Silvia Tomášková and Escobar at UNC and by Walter Mignolo and Catherine Walsh at Duke. She particularly connected with the course “Indigenous Literatures and Cultures of the Americas,” taught by Emilio del Valle Escalante, which allowed her to connect her theoretical and activist interest with literature and arts.

During and after the search for her father, Gómez Correal remained politically active in Colombia. “I want to know how the identity of victims is constructed and how their subjectivity changes,” she says. “My doctoral dissertation examines the role of emotions in the mobilization of victims of the state and paramilitary violence in Colombia,” she explains.

Gómez Correal believes that her research will be helpful to those who are trying to find their own power and build social movements that stand against violence. She plans to go back to Colombia, and urges U.S. citizens to consider their role in power imbalances at home and abroad.


Contributors: Shannon Harvey, Joe Mosnier, Jon Outlaw, Ingrid Smith, Cindy Scott Traeger, Madeline Vann, and Katie Bowler Young