Justin Bieber and Graffiti Writers in Colombia

Field Notes
"Without drugs, or alcohol but under cold and rain, we worked until dawn, giving our bodies and souls. We worked with discipline, devotion, and effort, without supervisors; sharing our little money to finish a work that can never be taken away," wrote Don Popo in his chronicle about the graffiti occupation sparked by Justin Bieber in Bogota. This time, I am lifting this text our from Don Popo's field note book. Don Popo is a pioneer of hip hop in Colombia. On Wednesday night, Justin, accompanied by police officers, draw a graffiti under the bridge on the 26th Street in Bogota...
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Our Own Child Soldiers

Field Notes
What if we look at the life of gang members through the experience of child soldiers in Africa? Is the experience of children manipulated and dragged into war in Uganda all that different from the one of teenagers recruited by gangs in our own cities? Are the fears and the fight for survival and the sense of power that comes with carrying a weapon of a child soldier in Somalia different from the ones of our teenagers patrolling the neighborhoods of our cities with a gun under their shirt? These questions spun in my mind a few days ago while witnessing the first encounter on Rutgers University's campus in Newark between Ishmael Beah, a former child soldier from Sierra Leone and author of A Long Way Gone, and DaShaun "Jiwe" Morris, author of War of the Bloods in My Veins, a compelling memoir about his life as a gang leader. In a...
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Anthropologist as peacemaker

Field Notes
Colombia, August 2003. It all began in the worst possible way. A journalist had provided me with an enigmatic email address and had informed me that a member of the Ejército de Liberación Nacional [National Liberation Army], the ELN guerrilla of Colombia, had consented to an interview. Thus, I wrote him with confidence, curiosity and some excitement. But a chill went down my spine when I read his reply. Who was I? How dare I contact him? What is it that I wanted? I opened my eyes wide while I was reading that nasty and venomous response. I was frightened and...
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Policing Medellin

Field Notes
April 2001. It was the first morning of the first day, of the first time I ever traveled to Colombia. With some friends as guides, I was strolling through the streets of downtown Medellin, exploring the city and stumbling over unlicensed street vendors as we traversed squares and alleys in a map of misery. We were crossing the busy Bolivar square, dominated by the cathedral, when, under the long shadow of the Libertador’s monument, skinny and muscular young men, wearing jeans, T-shirts and shiny sneakers, surrounded us and interrogated us aggressively. Then, with a quick move, one of the young men grasped and tugged at the...
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Latest Blog Post
Walter Benjamin, the blogger

If Walter Benjamin would live in our times, I bet he'd be a blogger. The blog format would be congenial to his montage writing style, to his avant-garde collage of observations and reflections, all expressing the fragmentary character of our existence. Benjamin in fact engaged with a variety of literary styles, such as auto...

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Latest News Post
Fusion Tv: Fighting Kidnapping in Colombia and Mexico

Open Source, the program hosted by León Krauze on Fusion TV (the new joint venture of ABC and Univision) focused on Tuesday, March 4 2014, on kidnapping. I had the opportunity to talk about the experience in Italy, when a group of citizens, among them myself, spearheaded a social movement against kidnapping, inspired by Angela Casella, who had asked for solidarity to the women from Southern Italy...

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