Publication / Inclusive Narratives

Narrative Dynamics in Polarised Contexts: A Case Study of the 2021 National Protests in Colombia

This narrative case study illustrates the ideas and practices in IFIT’s narrative framework by putting them in a specific country context. In the spring of 2021, Colombia experienced the most widely supported and violent national protests it had seen in decades. The protests were embedded in a national narrative landscape full of stories about how the protests formed, who the main actors were, and which values circumscribed the actions they took. The dominant narratives were rooted in over 50 years of armed conflict in Colombia, which the 2016 peace agreement between the government and the rebel FARC-EP was intended to end. 

The case study demonstrates, among other things, the role key events can play in bringing simplified polarising narratives in the public eye, eclipsing other narratives and incentivising violence. It discusses concrete examples of dialogue processes between opposing actors in the 2021 national protests that enabled them to find shared solutions to their grievances and transform their polarising narratives, but which were not very visible to the public. Based on first-hand interviews, focus group discussions and analyses of traditional and social media content, the study shows how narratives can drive conflict as well as contribute to peaceful engagement.

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