This ethnographic study traces the historical and political processes that shape how grassroots actors build peace in Montes de María, Colombia. Drawing on twenty-two months of ethnographic research, 103 interviews, and twelve focus group sessions with grassroots peace activists, youth, (I)NGO workers, state bureaucrats, private sector actors, and members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), I analyze peacebuilding as a site of contestation where universalized notions of ‘peace’ are negotiated, reworked, and recast within a particular locale. In particular, I outline how grassroots leaders explicitly contest and refuse “the times (los tiempos)” of the state and the international community as implementation of the Colombian peace accords unfolds in Montes de María.
I draw on the distinct social, environmental, and temporal dimensions of everyday peacebuilding in Montes de María to develop a grounded theory of “slow peace.” I argue that social leaders theorize “the times” beyond speed, pace, and duration. Instead, they invoke “the times” to draw attention to radical, alternative ways of experiencing, relating to, and inhabiting the world. The defense of territory and life is found through an immersion into the cotidianidad (everyday), where ancestral memories of collective resistance, practices of care for the entorno (life world), and relations of love and solidaridad (solidarity) are held and nurtured. I offer an anthropological account of peacebuilding that understands peace as a historical, cultural, and political process – emergent, dynamic, plural, and unfolding in everyday life.
Campesinos in Montes de María understand peace as embedded within their daily practices of care for their land and territory through multispecies relations that allow abundant life to flourish even in the midst of the ongoing violence(s) of armed conflict, forced displacement, and extractivism. The practices of slow peace emerge from the tenacious and collective struggle for dignified life found through an immersion into the cotidianidad (everyday) where relationships are deepened, ancestral memories reclaimed, and ecologies regenerated. Slow peace recasts peacebuilding as a multigenerational, multispecies, and continuous struggle to build a decolonial peace otherwise.