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AIDINGANDSILENCING: REPRESENTATIONSWITHINTHEUNHCROFTHECOLOMBIANHUMANITARIANCRISIS. LinaMariaGomezIsazaMAAnthropologyUBC2010 (PaperpresentedfortheUBCAnthropologyGradConferencein2009) ABSTRACT: Forced displacement is one of the major humanitarian problems in Colombia.

. It is a deliberate tactic used by paramilitary groups and guerrillas to drive individuals and entire communities from their home and land in order to use their areas for their own profit. People also abandon their homes out of fear of getting caught in the crossfire, to escape being blackmailed or kidnapped (including forced recruitment), or in frustration with the lack of opportunities. The following paper will explore the forms typically taken by humanitarian agencies that focus on internally displaced people (IDP) as their object of knowledge, assistance, and management. Following on Malkii (1996) and Zetters (2007) work about humanitarian interventions and labelling, I argue that the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees representation of Colombian indigenous people who have been labelled as IDPs tendstosilencethem. [Pictures3,4and5fromthegallery:] INTRODUCTION The footnote of this picture 1 states: Embera in shelter in Bogota [Embera is the name of an indigenous community]. In the city, the cultural shock is huge. The UNHCR [the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees] supports emergency shelters in one of the capitals suburbsforthosewhodonthaveaplacetostay. This image was taken from the UNHCRs web page specifically in the gallery they have forindigenouspeoplesinColombia.Itshowsalayeredsocialsituationfulloftypical(orifImay add stereotypical) representations. A young woman next to two small girls stares behind us (yes, you and me) without a readable expression, we could guess she is not happy, but contemplatingsomethingwithinherownthoughts.Shecouldbethinkingaboutthefoodsheis

1Iwillbemakingreferenceofpicturesfromthegallery: Thisfirstoneisidentifiedaspicturenumber3.

eating lots of white rice and something yellow that I cant identify (I guess it could be plantain or something soft, because they are just eating with a spoon). Their cups vary in colour and shape, kind of implying there is no homogeny in the dishware, as if there were multiple individuals ready to fill them with their stories. The girl on her right looks interested in something beyond her and gazes avidly to her side. We can only guess there are more children and other young woman here, sharing this communal meal. This is a perfect portrait of the imagined indigenous internally displaced persons in Colombia who for international, academic and practical terminology are abbreviated in the acronym IDP. A scary universalism ready for ourgaze.ThisintroduceswhatIconsiderthesimultaneousprocessofaidingandsilencing. How does this image described above falls into aiding and silencing? To answer this question I will focus on two issues, the significance of labelling and terminologies and the process of representation for humanitarian agencies. These I will analyse in light of the case studyoftheindigenouspeoplethatareaffectedbytheColombianhumanitariancrisis. The category of displaced and indigenous falls into wider social processes and practices that are dehistorizing. Liisa Malkki (1996) incisively points out in her study regarding Hutu refugees in Tanzania that by universalizing particular displaced people into "refugees" in abstractingtheirpredicamentsfromspecificpolitical,historical,culturalcontextshumanitarian practices tend to silence them. She argues that this dehistoricizing universalism creates a context in which it is difficult for people in the refugee category to be approached as historical actorsratherthansimplyasmutevictims(Malki1996). Itcanstripfromthemtheauthorityto give credible narrative evidence or testimony about their own condition in politically and

institutionally consequential forms (Malkii 1996). In international and humanitarian jargon, most of the people that UNHCR attends in Colombia are labelled as "internally displaced persons"ratherthanrefugees.Tosaythattheyareinternallydisplacedobviouslyindicatesthat they have moved but remain in their country of origin. The term "refugee," in contrast, is usually restricted to people who have fled their country (Finnstrom 2008). There is a wide variety of literature and studies concerning the idea of refugees, and it is really interesting to reviewhowthisisperformedinColombiascase,butIdonthavethespaceheretopursuethat theme.MymainconcernishowtheuseofIDPindicatesacomplicatedclassificatorylabellingin humanitarian stances, a tendency that not only removes a sense of history and agency, but silencesthesubjectswhoarethecoreofitsexistence. Zetters (2007) study explains how the use of labels not only is useful to describe the world but also to construct it in convenient images which Ill expand further in the second part of this paper. Furthermore, he describes that labelling is not just (and I quote) a highly instrumental process, but also a powerful explanatory tool to explore the complex and often disjunctive impacts of humanitarian intervention on the lives of people who are labelled for their practices (Zetter 2007: 176). For this case the IDP. The label IDP is increasingly being institutionalized within UNHCR, since it is concerned with establishing a viable framework of legal protection and the appropriate modalities for humanitarian intervention and assistance (OCHA 1998 in Zetter 2007:177). UNHCR, as an international agency from the UN family promotes human rights. It was mainly created in the aftermath of World War II (around the 1950s) to help the civilians who remained displaced. Its role has now being shifting as a

consequence of the varying social events whose complexity overthrows easy definitions of victims and was clearly constrained by the definition of refugees. Therefore its action in the particular case of Colombia has shifted to focus in individuals who dont fit into previous humanitarian practices or categories, but are completely in their line of attention as victims of anarmedconflict. THECOLOMBIANCASE Colombia has been in a state of internal armed conflict between military forces, guerrillas, and paramilitary groups for the last fifty years and indigenous peoples all over the country have experienced this violence and have become recipient of it (there are around 85 differentindigenousgroupsinColombiawithatotalpopulationofclosetoamilliondistributed throughout the territory). As a consequence from this humanitarian crisis, numerous indigenous leaders have been systematically persecuted specially while carrying out political actions and demanding acknowledgment of human rights. According to official government
figures, Colombia has around 2.6 million displaced persons. Some NGOs calculate that the real number of displaced is around 4 million. The Centre for Indigenous Cooperation (CECOIN), estimates that

12%ofColombiasdisplacedpeopleareindigenous. InAugust 8 2008,UNHCRinlightof theInternationalDayofIndigenous Peoples 2 ,made a public statement which addressed the humanitarian situation of displaced indigenous people in Colombia. It states that each year between twelve thousand (12.000) and twenty thousand (20.000) indigenous people are registered as forcedly displaced. But the Colombian National

2 al_de_los_pueblos_indigenas.pdf

Indigenous Organization (ONIC) believes this is a bigger number because many indigenous are unabletoaccesstheregistryandcontactlocalauthorities. Thecomplicationsoflabelling In UNHCRsweb page the labelling of indigenous displaced persons takes a leading role.

People are systematically referred as displaced, uprooted and victims, their affiliation with indigenous groups becomes accessory. They are not individuals with unique life histories and social connections. They become homogenized individuals known as displaced. While simultaneously they become marginalized and discriminated: by being both indigenous and displaced. There is a power structure that confines people in such terms. In within such structuretheysometimesstarttoreproduceandembodytheminordertogainrecognitionand dignity when adverse situations confront them, as part of processes of production of identity. WhatIargueisthateventhoughthereisawiderangeofterms,classificationandlabels,which are used in political, legal and lay contexts, the people who receive those denominations become mute, invisible or disappear when their rights are materialized by those who apply them. One thing that I observe is that apparently the idea of indigeneity does not make any difference when aid is given. It is interesting though that in most of the programs, projects, bulletins and news that mention indigenous people affected by these crisis, there is no questioning on who the subjects are: they are indigenous whichever definition suits them best (for the humanitarian worker and the subject of that aid). Virginia Tilley (2005) touches upon the issue of recognition of indigeneity. She explains that ethnic identities are sometimes clear

andobvious,butjustasoftentheyarenot.Evenwithinthegroup,peoplemaydifferaboutwho is truly a member. Criteria for membership may actually vary depending on class, age, gender [etc.] (...) (Tilley 2005: 11). It is truly incredible that even though these issues are in a way obvious and somehow refer to commonsense knowledge, the actual forms that are used to fill out cases of displacement dont engage in trying to take in account the ethnic diversity or get into deeper issues regarding their background, hence their non differential attention. This reinforces the universalism that with their insistence on the unknowability of details of specific histories and specific cultural or political contexts, such forms of representation deny people the ability to be more than anonymous bodies. Here I need to pause and explain that I really believethattheworkofUNHCRisvaluableandimportantforthecaseIamexposing.Itismuch needed and it does produce important outcomes in terms of protection and support. My main critiquecomesfromwhatbecomesnaturalizedasindigenousorIDP.Ithinktherehastobe amoreequaldialoguebetweentheactors:acknowledgingtheirdifferences,whattheyreceive, whatgetscirculatedandsoon.Or atleastalessasymmetricalspacetonegotiatethem.WhatI wish to point out is an awareness of this process; because doing so will make a more effective andappropriateinteractionofactorsandinstitutionswithinthissituation. Imagesandrepresentation LetsgobacktosomeofthepicturesthatwecanfindinUNHCRspage.Herewecansee various layers of analysis regarding how they are represented. On one hand they show conventionalized images of what one expects to see as a victim and in this case of IDP (as how theyhavebeenlabelled).

[Power point picture 2] In this picture 3 its footnote reads: Displaced Awa in Inda Sabaleta,southofColombia.Herewecanseethreeyoungwomenandtwosmallchildren.We dont know their names, their histories, what they told the photographer, or what the photographer told them, they somehow represent and embodiment of a subject that is characterizedintheinstitutionalandinternationalexpectationofacertainkindofhelplessness (Malkki 1996). This does not break the clichs of victims and violence. But these clichs are constructed by the meanings that are already within our own expectations and notions of significance: this photograph is capturing a reality that we are interpreting through our own stereotypes, they kind of look afraid, or at least they dont seem happy with their situation (or maybe the picture) and they are victims by becoming displaced persons. Is there any chance theyarenotdisplacedatall? They are part of what Allen Feldman (1994) describes as anonymous corporeality. For him: Generalities of bodies dead, wounded, starving, diseased, and homeless are pressed against the television screen as mass articles. They are persistently depersonalized in regimes of representation: no names, no distinguishing marks and it is either in mass scenes or equally visible in the images that show only a few individuals which are presented here: women and children. Is part of a sentimentalized composition: feminine and maternal, childlike and innocent. It is an image that we use to cut across cultural and political difference, when our intent is to address the very heart of our humanity (Malkii 1996:388). Their embodiment of IDPs has to do not just with the fact that most of them are women and children, but with the institutional,internationalexpectationofacertainkindofhelplessnessasanIDPcharacteristic.


At this point I am conscious that pictures have symbolic meaning, that they are powerful tools to create awareness and make issues matter of public concern. I acknowledge that the use of theseimagesisevokingandperhapsreinforcestheissuesthattheorganizationfights.Istrongly believe that there can be a middle ground level for these programs in which using this images withpropercharacterizationandfullcontextswillbringricherandmoreinformedresponses. [Power Point picture 3] The last picture 4 I wish to show reads: Quechua woman in the Agrarian Lake, Ecuador. This woman crossed the frontier to refugee in Ecuador where UNHCR gave her identification documents and gave her a kit to build a small house. We see her focused writing and we guess that she understands what paperwork she is doing. Is interesting the terminology used to describe these actions. We dont know why she left, who she is, did she came alone, who put her in danger in other words, where is the historical and political contextandtheordealsandnarrativesbehindherdisplacement?Isshelookingforjustice?This as well as the previous pictures is outdated. We are left with the feeling that her image is timeless.Isshesigningaconsentformforthephotographer?Shehasakitforahouse,shehas documents, but she has no name, she is someone who is a victim, almost an advertisement of an institution, rather than a person, who has her own context and could even dislike photographers and pictures, would she be pleased UNHCR has her in this gallery? Does she know? And I dont know what she will think about my use of her image for this exercise... will this make her happy, discomfort her? Do you think she is silenced? Does her voice then matters? Thankyou!


BIBLIOGRAPHY BoletndeprensaUNHCR/ACNUR:LapoblacinindgenaColombianaestsiendodevastadapor eldesplazamientoforzado(August82008) n_dia_internacional_de_los_pueblos_indigenas.pdf Feldman, Allen (1994) On Cultural Anesthesia: From Desert Storm to Rodney King. American Ethnologist21:404418. MalkkiLiisaH.(1995)PurityandExile:Violence,Memory,andNationalCosmologyAmongHutu RefugeesinTanzaniaPublishedbyUniversityofChicagoPress (1996) Speechless Emissaries: Refugees, Humanitarianism, and DehistoricizationCulturalAnthropologyAug1996,Vol.11,No.3:377404. Tilley, Virginia (2005) Seeing Indians: A Study of Race, Nation, and Power in El Salvador. Albuquerque:UniversityofNewMexicoPress UNHCRGalleryforIndigenousColombianpeoples: Zetter, Roger (2007) More Labels, Fewer Refugees: Making and Remaking the Refugee Label in an Era of Globalisation. Special issue on Research Methodologies and Refugee Studies Journal ofRefugeeStudies20(2),pp.172192.