For her sociology thesis, Miriam went to do her research for five and a half months to Quibdó, one of the poorest areas in Colombia.
“My research focused on how the Afro-Colombian community in the Chocó department has ‘defended’ its collective territorial rights. These rights were obtained in 1993 as part of a larger process in which Colombia started recognizing the rights of Afro-Colombian citizens. I also looked at how the escalation of paramilitary and guerrilla violence in the region (since 1996) has affected the ability of the Afro-Colombian community to claim their territorial rights. I combined participatory observation with interviews. While doing my field research I learned more and more about the particular complexity of the situation in this region. I found that defending territorial rights has been difficult for the community as different (private) companies started exploiting the region’s natural resources and the violence has impacted the ability of the community to claim their rights. The linkages between the motivations of the different armed actors and the state (elite), the wealth of the region’s resources and conflicting interpretations about to whom the territory belongs (and why) made the situation highly complex and quite multi-dimensional to analyze.
“My time in Colombia was amazing. Doing field work, getting to know new people and trying to find your way in a completely new and different context is an eye-opening experience. You need to be tolerant, flexible and open-minded in order to cope with everything that is not how you thought it would be, but in the end such an experience enriches you both professionally as personally”.
You can see her thesis online: