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Humanitarian and Conflict Response Institute

Caroline Delgado

Thesis title

Interpreting in/security: a study of the impact of policy and practice aimed at restoring security in the context of the armed conflict and quest for sustainable peace in Colombia.

Research

Why is it that state interventions aimed at restoring security in areas affected by the armed conflict have also been a cause of insecurity in these very same areas?

This apparent contradiction lies at the heart of the research. The research project aims to understand and explain this paradox by exploring how security is understood, produced and maintained at different levels of society. It focuses on the case of Colombia, where after five decades of armed conflict the government is on the verge of reaching an historic peace agreement with the FARC, and the subsequent preparations being made for a future post-conflict society.

Grounded in critical security studies, the research project seeks to explain the security interventions performed by the Colombian state in areas of heightened insecurity and the impact of these interventions on local communities. This will be done by addressing four specific questions:

  1. How are concepts of security and insecurity understood at the state-level? 
  2. Into what kind of state policy and practice do these understandings translate?
  3. How are insecurities experienced at the local community level?
  4. In what ways do the differences between security concerns at the state- and community-level impact on conflict dynamics?

The findings will be discussed in relation to the quest for sustainable peace.

In line with critical security studies the research is based on the belief that there are no universal understandings of security. Rather understandings of security stem from how people experience insecurity in different places and at different times. Nevertheless, while critical security studies call for more interpretive modes of analysis scholars have lamented the weakness of the methodologies for doing so. In response, the research project proposes a methodological framework integrating the macro state- and micro community-levels. The project makes use of mixed methods, though with the balance largely tilted towards qualitative methods. Within this framework, the research turns to grounded theory to make use of its systematic process of data collection and analysis. Data is also transferred to maps using geographical information system techniques to produce a graphic illustration of the location and severity of insecurities. The key strength of the methodology is that it allows the focus to fall on the research subjects and their articulations of securities and insecurities. Without imposing any preconceived meanings of what it means to be secure or insecure, it provides the openness and space for contesting dominant conceptualisations of security and to discuss what security means at the two levels and in relation to each other. Such understanding aims to encourage new ways of thinking about the conditions of stability, peace and security.

Research interests

Critical security studies, illicit drugs and organised crime, global health security, HIV/AIDS and armed conflict, Colombia, Latin America.

Relevant work experience

My professional background lies in global health and conflict analysis. This includes spending a number of years in Colombia, working on a range of topics including HIV/AIDS, children and conflict, and security policy analysis. It is this latter experience in particular which prompted me to pursue a PhD at the HCRI.

Previous education

  • MA International Humanitarian Action, Uppsala University, Sweden
  • Post-graduate diploma International Terrorism, Uppsala University, Sweden

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