2023-24 Lloyd & Susanne Rudolph Field Research Fellow



"Por que ocultar en vez de exhibir?": Violence Visibility and Enforced Disappearance in Colombia



Disappearances have been perpetrated by governments, armed political groups, and criminal organizations across the globe, causing untold anguish to families, communities, and civil society more broadly. From the Nazi “Night and Fog” operation against the French Resistance, to the mass campaigns of disappearance carried out in Cold War Latin American dictatorships, to the 43 students from Ayotzinapa, Mexico disappeared under democracy in 2014, disappearances have been useful to a multitude of armed actors throughout at least the past century. However, despite the diversity in the types of actors making use of this tactic, much research on disappearances adheres to the strict UN definition that limits the practice to state and state-affiliated perpetrators. Neglecting to explore the full range of reasons to employ and ways to enact disappearance within armed actors’ broader repertoires of violence limits our understanding of the practice, with grave implications for its mitigation and prosecution. Through case studies on authoritarian regimes in Argentina and Mexico during the Cold War and state, paramilitary, and guerrilla actors in late 20th century Colombia, this project disaggregates the widespread phenomenon of disappearance, exploring how actor type and goal influence the myriad of ways it can be perpetrated and to what consequence.


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Madeleine Stevens is a doctoral candidate in Political Science, with concentrations in Comparative Politics and International Relations. Her research interests include political violence and its legacies, covert action, and human rights, with a particular focus on Latin America and qualitative methods. More specifically, her dissertation project explores definitions of and the logics behind the use of enforced disappearance by both state and nonstate actors within and beyond the Cold War. Before joining the Political Science PhD program, she received a master’s degree in the Social Sciences from the University of Chicago and a bachelor’s degree in Communication summa cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania.