Current facets (Pre-Master)

'Colombian women and U.S. servicemen : Encounters and experiences from Melgar, Colombia', by Natalia Lozano Arévalo

Natalia Lozano Arevalo
Natalia Lozano Arevalo

ISS Working Paper No. 616

Natalia Lozano Arévalo is one of the ISS MA Research Paper Award winners for the academic year 2014-2015.

From the Research Paper Awarding Committee 2015:

“Using the case of Melgar, the location of two Colombian military bases with a permanent presence of U.S. military personnel, the author explores the implications of U.S. intervention in the conflict on the daily lives of Colombian women. The paper defies traditional frameworks for analysing the relationship between women and war, and shows that the experiences of participants are the product of the simultaneous interaction of the international and the local, the North and the South, the material and the emotional, and the private and the public. A variety of ethnographic methods were skilfully applied to bring out the women’s informed consent and agency to desire and enjoy their sexuality and make decisions while navigating within the constraints and possibilities of their gendered, militarized, racialized, sexualized and nationalized realities. The Committee was most impressed with the author’s persistence in getting access to relevant women and the way she applied theories on colonialism, sexuality and militarization in a systematic and elegant way to shift our mindsets.”

Abstract

More than 50 years of armed conflict in Colombia have permeated the entire society with a culture of violence and war, which have left few citizens untouched.  A crucial decision in the history of the conflict was to invite U.S. to take part in the Colombian war. What did this mean at local and interpersonal levels?

This study – the first scholarly treatment of transnational relationships between Colombian women and U.S. servicemen – considers the case of Melgar, the location of two Colombian military bases with a permanent presence of U.S. military personnel, to explore through locals’ narratives the implications of U.S. intervention in the conflict on the daily lives of Colombian women. It addresses this topic by focusing on the sexual and/or romantic relationships that have developed between local women and U.S. servicemen in relation with notions and practices of gender, sexuality, race, nationality and class.  A key finding is that participants’ experiences defy traditional frame-works for analysing the relationship between women and war, as well as op-positional constructs that split and give an incomplete interpretation of women’s lived experiences such as the private/public divide.

This paper offers an account of the multiplicity, fluidity and complexity of women’s lived experiences in militarized contexts, by concluding that local women that participated in the research embrace militarization by understanding their relationships with U.S. servicemen as beneficial and desirable. In doing so, they contribute to the maintenance of oppressive social orders and reinforce militarization.          
Furthermore, beyond serving military ends in the context of the militarization of Melgar, the experiences of participants are the product of the simultaneous interaction of the international and the local, the North and the South, the material and the emotional, the private and the public; and women’s social, economic and physical security and support, as well as their informed consent and agency to desire, enjoy their sexuality and make decisions while navigating within the constraints and possibilities of their gendered, militarized, racialized, sexualized and nationalized realities.

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Keywords
Colombian conflict, U.S. servicemen, women, gender, Melgar, sexuality, race, nationality, transnational relationships, power relations, intersectionality.