Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Global Governance and Human Security

First Advisor

J. Samuel Barkin

Second Advisor

Elora Chowdhury

Third Advisor

Andrés Fabián Henao Castro


This project investigates the gender assumptions and identities embedded in the conceptualization of peace in the Colombian legal system from 1946 to 1991. Using decolonial feminism and critical discourse analysis as its conceptual and methodological frameworks, this research identifies and analyzes two core legal conceptualizations of peace: peace as law-and-order (1946-1990), and peace as a human right (1991). This research demonstrates that legal norms played an essential role not only in regulating, but in conceiving, articulating, and communicating to the public what the state would understand as peace in the timeframe analyzed. Through the specific case of Colombia from 1946 to 1991, it also demonstrates that law’s power to conceptualize—the definitional power of law—is not neutral. It has embedded factors of gender, race, and class that shape its character, its precepts, and especially, its silences and exclusions. Since its inception, Colombia’s history has been marked by violence. A specific era of contemporary violence started in the 1940s and persisted throughout the century, despite numerous state attempts to address it, including issuing a new Constitution in 1991. Research regarding violence in Colombia is abundant, and includes important work on gender (understood here are inseparable from race, class, and colonial legacy) and the trajectory of gender violence during the armed conflict. Nevertheless, unequal gender power relations are not only about sexual violence or gender disparity, but about the assumptions and subjectivities reinforced in the conflict. Still, much less studied is the set of state narratives that normalize this violence. I argue that language, especially the language through which the state exerts its power in countries that follow the civil-law system, plays a role in the configuration of privilege and oppression. An analysis of 346 documents (legislative decrees, laws, constitutional reforms, and presidential speeches), demonstrates how the notions of state peace were discursively shaped and reshaped by gender, racialized, and colonial assumptions. This project’s findings add to the conversation on the state’s discursive violence as an important element in the study of the armed conflict and its gender component in Colombia, as well as to the understanding of contested conceptualizations and over-use of the peace notion in the current political arena.


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