The Face of Peace: Government pedagogy amid disinformation in Colombia

Colombia’s 2016 peace agreement with the FARC guerrillas sought to end fifty years of war and won President Juan Manuel Santos the Nobel Peace Prize. Yet Colombian society rejected it in a polarizing referendum, amid an emotive disinformation campaign. Gwen Burnyeat joined the Office of the High Commissioner for Peace, the government institution responsible for peace negotiations, to observe and participate in an innovative “peace pedagogy” strategy to explain the agreement to Colombian society. Burnyeat’s multi-scale ethnography reveals the challenges government officials experienced communicating with skeptical audiences and translating the peace process for public opinion. She argues that the fatal flaw in the peace process lay in government-society relations, enmeshed in culturally liberal logics and shaped by the politics of international donors. The Face of Peace offers the Colombian case as a mirror to the global crisis of liberalism, shattering the fantasy of rationality that haunts liberal responses to “post-truth” politics.

Dr Gwen Burnyeat is a junior research fellow in anthropology at Merton College, University of Oxford. She is author of two books on Colombia: “The Face of Peace: Government Pedagogy amid Disinformation in Colombia” (University of Chicago Press, 2022) and “Chocolate, Politics and Peace-Building: An Ethnography of the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó, Colombia” (Palgrave Macmillan 2018), co-editor of a recent special issue on “An Anthropology of the Social Contract” (Critique of Anthropology 2022), producer of award-winning documentary “Chocolate of Peace” (2016) and member of peacebuilding organisation “Embrace Dialogue” (Rodeemos el Diálogo).