The University of British Columbia
Rm 333 - 2080 West Mall
Vancouver, B.C. V6T 1Z2
B.A. in Anthropology, National University of Colombia, 1983
M.A. in Communications, Simon Fraser University, 1990
Ph.D. in Anthropology, University of British Columbia, 2000
Centre for Research on Latin America and the Caribbean (CERLAC), York University
My research, teaching, community work, and writing bordercross Latin America and North America. In my scholarly work, I am primarily concerned with three broad themes relating to ongoing violent conflicts: the lived experience of violence and displacement, the politics of memory, and the ethnography of suffering. The main questions that inform my participation in research, policy, and practice settings are: how do societies come to terms with a violent past? How can researchers facilitate community-based processes of historical memory and social reconstruction that are democratic?
My other area of scholarly and educational interest is about critical research methodologies. Over the years, I have explored questions about knowledge organization and validity through the development of critical research methodologies that foster interactive, process-based methods that tap into the various ways of knowing and organizing knowledge among local communities engaged in research processes.
My work also explores how ideas of community are negotiated and contested in contemporary societies and how individuals construct their memberships as citizens, community members, refugees, immigrants or across transnational borders through social struggles and creative processes.
The Social Functions of Memory: Based in Colombia, this study addresses the reconstruction of historical memory, and its relation to justice and reconciliation in a society with a long-standing armed conflict that is undergoing a process of demobilization, reintegration and reconciliation as the conflict continues. My research follows the work of the Working Group on Historical Memory, an interdisciplinary body of intellectuals and social leaders that is responsible for historical clarification and the development (with the “wide participation of society”) of a public report on the emergence and evolution of armed groups. Funded by the UBC Hampton Research Endowment Fund.
Against Mass Atrocities: Community Based Strategies to Document Human Rights Abuses in Ongoing Conflict Settings (Uganda and Colombia). Principal Investigators: Erin Baines (UBC, Liu Institute for Global Issues) and Pilar Riaño. This interdisciplinary, collaborative research project examines the conditions in which community based organizations collect evidence and victims’ memories of human rights abuses in settings of ongoing conflict. Comparing communities within and across Colombia and northern Uganda, two sites of prolonged conflict, this project develops a conceptual framework for interpreting when and why communities adopt specific strategies to document and remember. Further, it examines how such strategies contribute to local, national or international justice and reconciliation initiatives. Funded by the Martha Piper Research Fund, UBC.
Forced Migration of Colombians. A Comparative Study on Fear, Historical Memory and Social Representations in Colombia, Ecuador and Canada. A collaborative project with Martha Villa, Ana M. Jaramillo and Amparo Sánchez of Corporación Región, Colombia and with the participation of the Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences (FLACSO), Ecuador. The project aims to identify how social fears, historical memory and public representations of internally displaced peoples in Colombia (IDPs) and refugees in Ecuador and Canada influence their integration into the context of settlement and the responses from host populations to the presence of IDPs/refugees. The research aims to make this humanitarian crisis more visible through a study illustrating the differences and commonalities in the experiences of IDPs and refugees and by extrapolating the implications that these variations have on the development of policy and practice at the national and international levels. Funded by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC); the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, SSHRC, and Colciencias, Colombia
Poniendo Tierra de por Medio. Migración forzada de colombianos en Colombia, Ecuador y Canada. Edited by Riaño, P and M. Villa. Medellin: Corporación Region and University of British Columbia, 2008. 480 pages
Dwellers of Memory: Youth and Violence in Medellin, Colombia (1985-2000). Memory and Narratives. New York: Transaction Press, 2006. 285 pages.
Jóvenes, memoria y violencia en Medellín. Una Antropología del Recuerdo y el Olvido (Youth, Memory and Violence. An Anthropology of Remembering and Forgetting). Medellín: Universidad de Antioquia, Instituto Colombiano de Antropología e Historia, 2006. 260 pages. National Mention of Honour in Social Sciences; Fundacion Alejandro Escobar, 2006
Arte, memoria y violencia. Reflexiones sobre la ciudad (Art, Memory and Violence. Reflections on the city). First Edition. Medellin: Corporacion Region, 2003. 111 pages.
*Riaño, P. Women in Grassroots Communications: Furthering Social Change. Communication and Human Values Series, 315 pages. Thousand Oaks: SAGE, 1994 www.sagepub.com/booksProdDesc.nav;
Sánchez, Gonzalo, Álvaro Camacho, Jesús Colorado, Pilar Gaitán, Fernán González, Absalón Machado, Iván Orozco, Jorge Restrepo, Pilar Riaño, Andrés Suarez, María V. Uribe, León Valencia and María E. Wills. Trujillo. Una Tragedia que no Cesa. Bogotá: Editorial Planeta Colombiana, 2008. 301 pages.
Skin of Memory, La Piel de la Memoria. A Documentary about a Public Art Project in Medellìn, Colombia. Produced by Dorothy Kidd; Associate Producer: Pilar Riaño, Commoners Productions
Updated September 29, 2009