The School of Geography, Politics and Sociology

Student Profiles

Alicia Harding

Project title: Political Transition after Complex Conflict: Conceptualizing the political agency of the Child Actor (Colombia)

Supervisors: Dr Martin Coward, Dr Nick Morgan

This project follows the position of children in conflict and post-conflict environments. In a world where conflicts are increasingly complex, it has become more and more important to understand who is involved and why. With the growing network of actors involved, be that state, non-governmental organizations, international governmental organizations, academic and media institutions, or social actors, it is crucial to understand how their respective positions impact the conflicts that such groups operate within. Together they form a framework that structures how a conflict is understood, handled, and the policies that determine the outcome for those who are implicated in the violence.

One of the key ways that these groups do this is by categorizing who is involved and how they are involved in the conflict. This project will focus on the example of children and the way that the aforementioned framework interprets the actions of children in conflict. The way that the role of children is interpreted leads to them becoming restricted by the definition imposed on them. Children are not categorized as political actors and therefore their actions are not understood as politically motivated. This restricts the ability of children to act politically in a way that empowers them. If they act in a political way by participating in violence, their actions are considered illegitimate to their status as children.

The result of this is that children become exposed and vulnerable to exploitation and manipulation. Understanding this is imperative to securing post-conflict resolution. In order to illustrate the importance of this, the case of Colombia will be used throughout the project. This will involve fieldwork in Colombia to trace the experiences of the children involved in the conflict. It will be an opportunity to map out the involvement and impact that the aforementioned framework has on the participation of children in conflict and post-conflict processes. This will contribute to other work surrounding growing concerns about complex conflicts and transitional periods.