Reconstructing the Social Fabric amid On-going Violence: Attitudes toward Reconciliation and Structural Transformation in Colombia

Laura K. Taylor, Manuela Nilsson, Brenda Amezquita-Castro

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Given the increase of reconciliation processes initiated amid on-going violence, this study focuses on community reconciliation and its relation to structural transformation, or social reconstruction through reforming unjust institutions and practices that facilitate protracted violent conflict. Drawing lessons from the Caribbean coast of Colombia, mixed method analyses include eight in-depth interviews and 184 surveys. Four key dimensions of reconciliation – truth, justice, mercy, peace – are examined. In the interviews, participants prioritize reconstructing the truth and bringing perpetrators to justice as essential aspects of reconciliation. Notions of mercy and forgiveness are less apparent. For the participants, sustainable peace is dependent on structural transformation to improve livelihoods. These data, however, do not indicate how this understanding of reconciliation may relate to individual participation in reconciliation processes. Complementing the qualitative data, quantitative analyses identify some broad patterns that relate to participation in reconciliation events. Compared to those who did not participate, individuals who engaged in reconciliation initiatives report higher levels of personal experience with violence, live alongside demobilized paramilitaries, are more engaged in civic life, and express greater preference for structural transformation. The paper concludes with policy implications that integrate reconciliation and structural transformation to deepen efforts to rebuild the social fabric amid violence.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)83-98
Number of pages29
Issue number1
Early online date19 Oct 2015
Publication statusPublished - 2016

Bibliographical note

Laura K. Taylor, Ph.D., is a Lecturer (Assistant Professor) in the Centre for Identity and Intergroup Relations in the School of Psychology at Queen’s University, Belfast. She earned a dual doctorate in Psychology and Peace Studies from the University of Notre Dame. Her research employs mixed methods to examine the impact of political violence on children, families, and communities in Colombia, Croatia, and Northern Ireland. With over 20 peer-reviewed publications, her work appears in the Journal of Peace Research, Peace & Conflict: Journal of Peace Psychology, and Political Psychology, among other journals.


  • Reconciliation
  • Colombia
  • structural transformation
  • civic engagement
  • political conflict

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences(all)


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