About Me

I am a doctoral candidate in sociology at the University of Texas at Austin. My research interrogates the relationship between state formation, rural development, and peace processes in the countryside of Colombia. For decades, the isolated village of Briceño was under the control of warring armed groups, with an economy based on the cultivation of coca, the raw material of cocaine. In the context of a landmark 2016 peace agreement with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrillas, however, Briceño has come under the gaze of state power as Colombia’s Peace Laboratory. My research follows the village’s wholesale transformation as the site of a pilot coca substitution program negotiated in the peace agreement, unprecedented levels of state investment, and Colombia’s largest hydroelectric dam.

My work has appeared in Qualitative Sociology, Contexts, El Espectador, the North American Congress on Latin America, Jacobin, and Ethnographic Marginalia, among others. Along with written articles, I draw heavily on photography and am the co-director of the in-progress documentary film, “An Uncomfortable Peace.” I am also co-founder and co-editor of the website and podcast Ethnographic Marginalia, which provides a space for reflection on and discussion of ethnographic methods and experiences. I am currently continuing my fieldwork while working on my dissertation, titled “‘Don’t talk to me about peace when the people are starving’: everyday state formation in Colombia’s Peace Laboratory.”

An Ethnography of the Peace Laboratory

Over 22 months of ethnographic participant observation in the village of Briceño, I have explored what peace, state formation, and capitalist development mean for villagers’ lives. Specifically, I focus on how state power is experienced, contested, and achieved through villagers’ everyday encounters with it: the broken promises of the coca substitution program; their struggles to develop legal economies in the face of national and global policy regimes that increasingly disadvantage smallholding farmers; collective action against the hydroelectric dam; the building, maintenance, and use of local roads; and the relationships locals develop during mayoral campaigns to access sorely needed public resources.

Though academics, journalists, and policy makers usually focus on the institutions and officials who plan and implement peace agreements, development programs, and megaprojects, my contention is that we learn something essential from focusing on the lives and experiences of local communities. This is a moral stance-we should evaluate these processes based on their impact on the often marginalized populations who are most affected by them-but it is also theoretical. State power and processes of capitalist accumulation are achieved (or not) in the messiness of daily life, based on people’s experiences, how they make sense of them, and what they do about it.

For more information, please contact me at akdiamond@utexas.edu or see my CV: ADiamond_CV_September_2021.