Becoming Someone: Youth, violence and drug-dealing in Colombia’s urban periphery
We kindly invite you to the fourth edition of the Occasional CONPEACE Webinar Series. As part of this series, researchers of the University of Oxford’s programme CONPEACE – From Conflict Actors to Architects of Peace ( and international speakers analyse differing visions of security, how they can be reconciled, and how security architectures need to be adapted to adequately respond to changing security landscapes from a people-centred perspective.

In this meeting, Dr Elena Butti, Postdoctoral Fellow at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, will talk about her research on youth, violence, and drug-dealing in Colombia’s urban periphery. Since 2015, Dr Butti has been conducting ethnographic fieldwork with adolescents involved at the low-ends of criminal groups in and around Medellín, Colombia. In this talk, she will discuss what motivates these young people to start engaging in crime and violence, and how they slowly develop an aspiration to climb up the criminal ladder. She argues these youth’s criminal engagement stems from a profound sense of ontological insecurity (Giddens 1991), result of growing up in dysfunctional families amidst violence and precarity. Made to feel like ‘nobodies´, by climbing up the criminal ladder these youth gain money, recognition, and respect – in other words, they ´become somebody´. Theoretically, this talk problematises criminological and sociological framings of street youth as ‘outsiders’. Practically, it offers a series of recommendations for more effective approaches that can steer these young people away from crime.

After the talk, Prof Lirio Gutiérrez Rivera (Universidad Nacional de Colombia) will discuss Dr Butti’s findings against the background of the debate on security in post-Peace Agreement Colombia. The event will conclude with a Q&A and will be moderated by CONPEACE Postdoctoral Research Fellows Dr Markus Hochmüller and Dr Dáire McGill.

Speaker bios:

Dr Elena Butti is an anthropologist, humanitarian practitioner and participatory film-maker interested in the lives of young people at the urban margins. Following doctoral and post-doctoral studies at the University of Oxford, she is currently a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Centre on Conflict, Development and Peacebuilding of the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies (IHEID) in Geneva, working on her book project, an ethnographic exploration of adolescents’ first steps into drug-related crime in contemporary Colombia. She has collaborated with several international organizations on the Youth, Peace and Security agenda, most recently as Global Youth Advisor for War Child.

Dr Lirio Gutiérrez Rivera is an Associate Professor at the Department of Political Science at the Universidad Nacional de Colombia (Medellín Campus) and Research Associate at the Centre for Criminology, University of Oxford. She holds a doctorate in Political Science from Freie Universität Berlin. Her research focuses on urban violence and crime, security, gender and urban planning, and migration in Colombia and Honduras. She is the author of “Territories of Violence State, Marginal Youth, and Public Security in Honduras” (Palgrave, 2013).
Date: 5 May 2021, 14:00 (Wednesday, 2nd week, Trinity 2021)
Venue: Online via Zoom
Speakers: Dr Elena Butti (Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies), Prof Lirio Gutiérrez Rivera (Universidad Nacional de Colombia)
Organising department: Department of Politics and International Relations (DPIR)
Organisers: Markus Hochmüller (University of Oxford), Dr Daire McGill (University of Oxford)
Part of: CONPEACE Webinar Series
Booking required?: Required
Booking url:
Audience: Public
Editors: Helen Morley, Holly Omand, Hannah Vinten