Education through Memory Sites: Youth and the (Im)Possibility of Peace in Colombia
Paula Mantilla Blanco

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship

Award Year



Teachers College, Columbia University

Primary Discipline

Comparative Education
Education is widely recognized as a fundamental mechanism for peacebuilding in contexts of transition, as it is expected to fulfil the dual goals of addressing the past and promoting a peaceful future. However, research in these contexts overwhelmingly conflates education with formal schooling and overlooks other pedagogical spaces. Memory sites, such as museums and memorials, are unique examples of non-formal spaces of education where memory is intentionally constructed and transmitted. To understand the pedagogical use of these spaces, my dissertation explores the role of state-sponsored memory sites in educating for peacebuilding in Colombia. In the context of school visits, memory sites are used as pedagogical tools in connection to the formal education system. Emphasizing the intersection of formal and non-formal education, this project contributes to a broader view of education for peacebuilding. I build on sociological approaches to memory-building and the role of the state to better understand how youth interpret memory pedagogies and how processes of memory-building shape youth?s expectations about peace. Through a mixed-methods, multiple-case study of two memory sites in Colombia, I analyze how memories are institutionalized and used for pedagogical purposes. I draw on the case of Colombia, where six decades of continuous conflict and three decades of piecemeal peace negotiations have led to the normalization of violence and the perception that peace is utopic. Empirically examining the connections between past and future and between individuals and collectives has the potential to unveil relevant challenges that arise as youth situate themselves as social and historical subjects.
About Paula Mantilla Blanco
Paula Mantilla-Blanco is a Ph.D. candidate in Comparative and International Education at Teachers College, Columbia University. Her research interests include education in conflict and post-conflict contexts, the construction and transmission of memories of violence and resistance, and the role of education in transitional justice processes. Her dissertation focuses on the pedagogical use of memory sites in Colombia. Paula holds an M.A. in Cultural and Educational Policy Studies from Loyola University Chicago and a B.S. in Mathematics from the Universidad de los Andes in Colombia. She received the 2021-2022 USIP Peace Scholar Fellowship to support her dissertation fieldwork. Her pre-dissertation research was funded by the Institute of Latin American Studies and the Advanced Consortium on Cooperation, Conflict, and Complexity at Columbia University.

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