You are originally from Colombia, how come you are today based in Sweden?
I’m originally from a city called Medellín – very known internationally because of the difficult situation with drugs and so on. But I’m not part of that story, I received political asylum in Sweden in 1989 because of political circumstances. The situation then was that a lot of democratic forces were trying to change the political situation in the country but were virtually exterminated. This has been the biggest ideo-cide on the American continent. The situation is still very much the same. Peasants and indigenous people, and people from different grassroot movements, are still being killed because of their beliefs and commitments. Especially in north Colombia there are indigenous communities who are afflicted by big companies making big money from coal mines. They have been suffering a lot, because the provision of water have been redirected to the mine, instead of for drinking. One of these mines is El Cerrejon, the second biggest open pit mine in the world.
Since last year you are researching and teaching at the Gender Studies department at Gothenburg University. You are researching struggles and movements which you are also engaged in yourself. How do you see your role as both a researcher and an activist?
I think this is a very interesting methodological approach. I’m working within gender studies, and it means that I have a conceptualization of participation which is based on the idea of situated knowledge. Our understanding is that knowledge is partial. That there is not one idea of knowledge which is totally whole and complete. We need different kinds of views in order to get a complete picture of what knowledge is. And that means that everyone has a responsibility for what we see. So in this case, as a researcher, I am taking part in the movements that are interested in changing things, especially the urban poor and the people in rural landscapes that are poor. And I think these groups especially are contributing less to climate change in terms of emissions and destroying the ecosystem. They are the groups that are showing the most interesting practices on how we can perform a good transition to a more sustainable development.
Still: Laila Östlund
Editing of still: Calle Björned
Video footage: Tobias Pontara