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'Volviendo a Vivir' (Coming back to life): Urban trauma, activism and building emancipatory futures

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Rachel Pain


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This paper engages recent writing on urban trauma, exploring its connection with the gendered forms of activism that displaced women practice as they seek to rebuild more emancipatory urban futures. Their activisms are situated in the context of multiple, ongoing and intersecting forms of violence from intimates, armed groups and the state, including institutional neglect (in and of the city) that is racialised and gendered. We draw on participatory action research undertaken with women in the Colombian cities of Bogotá and Medellín. Using creative audio-visual methods over several months, women co-produced a documentary in which they chart the ways that they claim spaces of the city inside and outside their homes. We draw particular attention here to the temporal dimension of urban trauma as it intersects with migrant women’s spatial biographies; this has consequences for their activisms which also transcend the sites and scales of public and private spheres, national and global crises, and individual and community responses. We argue that it is the gradually accruing and multiplying character of violence and trauma which in turn necessitates the gradual and multiscalar development of these activisms. The women used ecological metaphors of rooting and growth to explain how, through these activisms and directly informed by past traumatic events, they ‘come back to life’. Together, they build solidarity networks and alliances, and imagine and practice alternative feminist urban futures and modes of recovery in their new urban homes.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Marzi S, Pain R

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Urban Studies

Year: 2023

Pages: epub ahead of print

Online publication date: 15/12/2023

Acceptance date: 15/09/2023

Date deposited: 22/03/2024

ISSN (print): 0042-0980

ISSN (electronic): 1360-063X

Publisher: Sage Publications Ltd


DOI: 10.1177/00420980231213730


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Funder referenceFunder name
Economic and Social Research Council