Conference presentation
Open access

Sites of memory as commons: appropriations and dispossessions in Colombia’s urban margins

First online date2023-06-24

In Medellin, in 2022, a collective of artists and activists submitted a proposal to the Colombian Truth Commission to register a cemetery as a collective good that preserves local memories. The collective appropriated this site when it was under the neglected supervision of the clergy. They regularly paint its walls in a call for remembrance and resistance, depicting the violence (mainly through portraits of murdered youths), and emphasizing the indigenous and peasant roots of marginalized neighborhoods. Described in the media as the “largest painted cemetery in Latin America”, this project allowed activists to use a decaying site as a political space, where neighborhood histories, figures of the community and portraits of the disappeared are presented. However, the site is threatened by current developments. Because it is situated in a zone of strategic urban planning, the cemetery risks being demolished. Moreover, with a tourism boom developing around the street-art scene in some adjacent neighborhoods, residents are complaining about over-tourism and criticizing the urban legends and fake facts that tour guides are promoting. As many testified, they are experiencing a feeling of dispossession that is both material (e.g. with displacements and destructions due to urban planning) and symbolic (e.g. through the distortion and commodification of their local history). This contribution examines how activists, artists and residents express their right to their city, by considering a cemetery as urban commons. It will expose some of the tensions that arise when tourism, art, urban planning and violence coexist in the margins of Latin America.

  • Collective memory
  • Violence
  • Common
  • Community
  • Dispossession
  • Gangs
Research group
Citation (ISO format)
NAEF, Patrick James. Sites of memory as commons: appropriations and dispossessions in Colombia’s urban margins. In: XIX Biennial IASC Conference ”The Commons We Want: Between Historical Legacies and Future Collective Actions. Nairobi. 2023.
Main files (1)
  • PID : unige:170079

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