My areas of special interest relate to three intersecting themes: (1) the understanding of how mass violence is experienced in the everyday; (2) the ways memory is mobilized in narratives, everyday actions and performances; and (3) performance and community public art. I am particularly interested in exploring community-based approaches to broader questions of justice after mass violence and to memorialization and truth telling. Since 2013, I have been working on a SSHRC-funded project that brings together my longstanding interest in themes of memory and violence to advance a conceptualization of memory as a contested social practice through the ethnographic exploration of four complex civil society initiatives of memory in Colombia and the claims, negotiations and representations they activate.

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 various social groups and local communities.

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 art based processes.


Research Projects

The workings of memory in contexts of crisis. A repertoire of memory initiatives. SSHRC Insight grant. Principal Investigator.

Canadian Consortium for Performance and Politics in the Americas. SSHRC Partnership Grant. Co-investigator. Principal Investigator: Peter Kulchyski, University of Manitoba

Land, memory and justice: Challenges for peace in Colombia. SSHRC Connections Grant. Co investigator. Principal Investigator: Luis Van Isschot, University of Toronto

The possibilities and challenges of a place-based approach to strengthening urban communities: A case study of neighbourhood houses in Vancouver. SSHRC Insight grant. Co-investigator. Principal Investigator: Miu Chan

Against Mass Atrocities: Community Based Strategies to Document Human Rights Abuses (Colombia and Uganda) with Dr. Erin Baines (Liu Institute for Global Issues)

Riaño-Alcala, P. Emplaced Witnessing: Sites of Insight, Imagination and Commemoration among the Wayuu. Memory Studies. First published online on December 30, 2014 as doi:10.1177/1750698014563874

Riaño-Alcalá, P. and L. Goldring. Unpacking Refugee Community Transnational Organizing: the Challenges and Diverse Experiences of Colombians in Canada. Refugee Survey Quarterly, Vol 33 (2): 84-111

Riaño-Alcalá, P. and S. Lacy. Skins of Memory: Art, Civic Pedagogy, and Social Reconstruction. In Kester, G. and B. Kelley (eds.). Anthology of Arts Collectives. Duke University Press, In press.

Guest editor with Erin Baines. Special Issue on “Transitional Justice and the Everyday,” International Journal of Transitional Justice, 6(3). November 2012

Riaño-Alcalá, P. and E. Baines. The Archive in the Witness: Documentation in Settings of Chronic Insecurity. The International Journal of Transitional Justice, 5(3): 412-433.

Ibanez-Carrasco, Francisco and Pilar Riaño-Alcalá. Organizing Community Based Research Knowledge Between University and Communities: Lessons Learned. Community Development Journal. 2011, 46(1): 72-88.

Riaño-Alcalá, P. Journeys and Landscapes of Forced Migration: Memorializing Fear among Refugees and Internally Displaced Colombians’. Social Anthropology. 2008, 16(1): 1 – 18.

Bello, M; Suarez, A; Gonzalez, F. Riaño, P; Uprinmy, R, Sánchez, L. Basta Ya. Colombia: Memorias de Guerra y Dignidad [Enough already. War Memories and Dignity]. Final Report of the Historical Memory Commission. Bogota: Centro Nacional de Memoria Historica. 2013

Villa M. I; Riaño-Alcalá, P; Sánchez, A. (Rapporteurs), Jaramillo, Ana; Bello, Martha N. and Gonzalez, S. (Co-rapporteurs). The Invisble Traces of the War. Forced Displacement in Comuna 13 of Medellin. A Report by the Historical Memory Group of the National Commission of Reparation and Reconciliation (Colombia). Bogotá: Taurus, 2011. 332 pages. In Spanish.

Polo, E.; Quintero, V.; Riaño, P.; Wills, M. (Rapporteurs). Women Making History. Land, Body and Politics in the Colombian Caribe. A Report by the Historical Memory Group of the National Commission of Reparation and Reconciliation (Colombia). Bogotá: Taurus, 2011. 168 pages.

Riaño, P. (Rapporteur). The Massacre of Bahía Portete. Wayuu Women in the Crosshairs. A Report by the Historical Memory Group of the National Commission of Reparation and Reconciliation (Colombia). Bogotá: Taurus, 2010. 231 pages. In Spanish.