What Was the FARC? The Colombian Guerrilla Dystopia 1948-2016

Les W. Field, Department of Anthropology, UNM in conversation with Felix Manuel Burgos, Department of Spanish and Portuguese, NYU

Tuesday, September 27, 2022 | 04:00 pm

Latin American and Iberian Institute (801 Yale Blvd NE) and Zoom

801 Yale Blvd NE (campus building #165)


Media and often academic discourse about guerrilla movements in the 20th and 21st centuries typically flattens what are substantive differences between extremely diverse armed social movements. That diversity is present not only between the armed movements of Latin American and those of the Middle East, for example and perhaps most obviously, but within Latin America itself post World War II. US academic perspectives on Latin American guerrilla movements have been and in many ways continue to be shaped by Central American nationalist, anti-imperialist armed organizations such as the FSLN (Nicaragua), the FMLN (El Salvador) and the URNG (Guatemala), or by the leftist nationalist guerrillas of the Southern Cone, such as the Tupamaros (Uruguay) or the Montoneros (Argentina). Colombia’s FARC, which was founded in 1964 but was impelled by a chain of events that exploded in 1948 stands in substantive and stark contrast to any of these other guerrilla movements. The history of the FARC which as it had been configured since its founding came to an end in 2016 offers a window into a movement shaped by an oligarchic society, inspired by Stalinist interpretations of Marxism, and marked by a profoundly dystopian trauma at its very start.

Les W. Field (Ph.D. Duke University 1987), Professor of Anthropology at UNM pursues research in South, Central, and North America, and in Palestine that hinges upon establishing collaborative relationships with communities concerning the goals, methods, agendas, products and epistemologies of anthropological work. His research is explored in The Grimace of Macho Ratón: Artisans, Identity and Nation in Late Twentieth Century Western Nicaragua (1999) Abalone Tales: Collaborative Explorations of California Indian Sovereignty and Identity (2008), and Challenging the Dichotomy: The Licit and the Illicit in Archaeological and Heritage Discourses (2016), edited with Cristobal Gnecco and Joe Watkins. 

Dr. Field’s current book project, with a title still under construction, is about different sorts of human relationships and communities that are variously understood as utopias, dystopias, anti-utopias, and indigenous futurisms. The co-authored chapters offer specific scenarios in real time and space in Nicaragua (with Lara Gunderson), Colombia (with Felix Manuel Burgos, who is also part of this presentation's discussion), Native California (with the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe), Palestine, and Jewish historical places where these kinds of relationships have been developed, elucidated, transformed, rejected, discarded, ignored.

Félix Manuel is a former MA student of Latin American Studies at UNM. His concentrations were Linguistics and Anthropology.  In this last field, he met Les, as his professor and friend. Les was part of his dissertation committee in Hispanic Linguistics doctorate at UNM, where he analyzed mass media discourse related to war in the Colombian conflict. Currently he is a Clinical Associate Professor at New York University in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese. 

Years before, Félix Manuel was an elementary teacher in La Macarena, a municipality of Colombia, controlled by the FARC. This experience and Les' insights about dystopia gave birth to research about how revolutionary movements can succumb to their own utopias. 


This event is free and open to the public.