School of Social and Political Science

Dr Gwen Burnyeat

Job Title

Lecturer in Social Anthropology

Photo
Woman with blonde hair and gold Colombian earring

Room number

4.10

Building (Address)

Chrystal Macmillan Building

Street (Address)

15a George Square,

City (Address)

Edinburgh

Post code (Address)

EH8 9LD

Research interests

Research interests

Peace, conflict and politics in Colombia, political divisions in Britain, Brexit, elections, political polarisation, peace processes and peacebuilding, dialogue and reconciliation, transitional justice, anthropology of the state, politics and the political, the social contract, liberalism, disinformation, stories and storytelling, creative and literary ethnography, and public anthropology. 

I am a political anthropologist, and I have been working in Colombia on peace, conflict and politics for over fourteen years as both a scholar and a peacebuilding practitioner. I am now beginning comparative research on political divides in my own country, Britain, building on my experience in the Colombian peace process. My new ERC-selected research project (now UKRI-funded), Stories of Divided Politics: Polarisation and Bridgebuilding in Colombia and Britain, will explore stories and experiences of polarisation in both countries, and the strategies used by people and organisations to build bridges across difficult political divides, with a focus on storytelling. 

I also write fiction, which is one of my ways of being a public anthropologist, and my creative work has appeared in Critical Muslim, The Dublin Review, Flash Fiction Magazine, and elsewhere. I believe in an engaged anthropology that does something in the world, and in storytelling as a political intervention.

Topics interested in supervising

I am open to supervising PhD projects related to any of my research interests; please get in touch to discuss.

Background

I retrained as an anthropologist (my background is in literature studies) after working in human rights and conflict observation in Colombia. I did an MPhil in Social Anthropology as a Leverhulme Study-Abroad Scholar at the National University of Colombia in Bogotá, where I also lectured in Political Anthropology, then a PhD in Social Anthropology at University College London as a Wolfson Scholar. Before joining Edinburgh, I was a Junior Research Fellow in Anthropology at Merton College, University of Oxford, and taught there in the School of Anthropology and Museum Ethnography.

My first book, Chocolate, Politics and Peace-Building: An Ethnography of the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó, Colombia (Palgrave Macmillan, 2018), is a study of cocoa-farmers in a warzone in Urabá, northwest Colombia, who declared themselves neutral to the armed conflict, and became one of the most high-profile grassroots community attempts to build peace in the midst of the armed conflict. It is now also available in a Spanish translation (Editorial Universidad del Rosario, 2022). This book is accompanied by my award-winning ethnographic documentary, Chocolate of Peace (2016).

My second book, The Face of Peace: Government Pedagogy amid Disinformation in Colombia (University of Chicago Press, 2022; Spanish translation forthcoming), is an ethnography of the government officials responsible for peace negotiations with the FARC guerrilla, and for communicating a historic peace deal to Colombian society, before and after a polarising referendum. Based on unprecedented inside access, it reveals the challenges government officials experienced translating the peace process for public opinion amid an emotive disinformation campaign. It offers insight from Colombia into the role of government-society relations in peace processes, and how liberalism responds to so-called ‘post-truth’ politics.

As a peacebuilding practitioner, my experience covers human rights, dialogue facilitation, peace processes and transitional justice, including with the International Centre for Transitional Justice (ICTJ) and Peace Brigades International (PBI), and I am a member of Anglo-Colombian peacebuilding organisation Rodeemos el Diálogo (ReD, or Embrace Dialogue). As well as academic work I also write regularly for media outlets including the London Review of Books, the Los Angeles Review of BooksAmericas QuarterlyThe ConversationLatin America Bureau, the LSE Latin America and Caribbean Centre Blog, The Globe Post, and elsewhere.

See my website for more information.

Publications

Books

Burnyeat, G. (2022). The Face of Peace: Government Pedagogy amid Disinformation in Colombia. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Burnyeat, G. (2022). Chocolate, política y construcción de paz: Una etnografía de la Comunidad de Paz de San José de Apartadó, Colombia. Bogotá: Editorial Universidad del Rosario.

Burnyeat, G. (2018). Chocolate, Politics and Peace-Building: An Ethnography of the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó, Colombia. London; New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Peer-Reviewed Articles & Book Chapters

Burnyeat, G. (2023). The Face of the Government: Presence and Responsibility in the Colombian Peace Process with the FARC-EPJournal of the Royal Anthropological Institute early view: https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-9655.14055

Burnyeat, G. (2023). ‘Las relaciones Estado-sociedad para la paz y el trabajo en red con aliados de la Comisión de la Verdad’. In Educación política: Debates de una historia por construir. Ed. Marcela Pardo and Stefan Peters. Bogotá: CINEP, pp73-82.

Burnyeat, G. and M. Sheild Johansson (2022). An anthropology of the social contract: The political power of an ideaCritique of Anthropology 42(3), 221–237. 

Burnyeat, G. (2022). ‘We were not emotional enough’: Cultural liberalism and social contract imaginaries in the Colombian peace process Critique of Anthropology 42(3), 286-303.

Burnyeat, G. (2020). The Envoy: A Government “Peace Pedagogy” Session in Colombia’s Transition. In Terrain (73). 

Burnyeat, G. (2019). ‘Peace Pedagogy and Interpretative Frameworks of Distrust: State-Society Relations in the Colombian Peace Process’. In Bulletin of Latin American Research 39(1), 37-52.

Burnyeat, G. (2017). ‘‘Rupture’ and the State: the ‘Radical Narrative’ of the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó, Colombia’. In Antípoda: Revista de Antropología y Arqueología 29: 17-40. 

Burnyeat, G. (2013). ‘On a Peak in Darién: Community Peace Initiatives in Urabá, Colombia’. In Journal of Human Rights Practice 5(3), 435-445. 

Burnyeat, G. (2010). ‘Una barrera a la paz: polarización en el debate colombiano de víctimas’. In Revista Javeriana, No. 768(146), 30-43. 

Works within

Publications by user content

Publication Research Explorer link
Burnyeat G. The face of the government: Presence and responsibility in the Colombian peace process with the FARC-EP. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute. 2023 Nov 16;1-19. Epub 2023 Nov 16. doi: 10.1111/1467-9655.14055
Burnyeat G, Röders J. Research Brief: Trust in the State and Peacebuilding. 2023. doi: 10.59498/25723
Burnyeat G, Johansson MS. An anthropology of the social contract: The political power of an idea. Critique of Anthropology. 2022 Sept 7;42(3):221–237. doi: 10.1177/0308275X221120168
Burnyeat G. ‘We were not emotional enough’: Cultural liberalism and social contract imaginaries in the Colombian peace process. Critique of Anthropology. 2022 Sept;42(4):286 - 303. Epub 2022 Aug 10. doi: 10.1177/0308275X221120166
Burnyeat G. Chocolate, política y construcción de paz: Una etnografía de la Comunidad de Paz de San José de Apartadó, Colombia. Bogotá: Editorial Uniersidad del Rosario, 2022.
Burnyeat G. The Face of Peace: Government Pedagogy amid Disinformation in Colombia. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2022. 320 p.
Burnyeat G. The envoy: A government “peace pedagogy” session in Colombia’s transition. Terrain. 2020 Oct 9;73(2020). doi: 10.4000/terrain.20438
Burnyeat G. Peace pedagogy and interpretative frameworks of distrust: State–society relations in the Colombian Peace Process. Bulletin of latin american research. 2020 Jan;39(1):37-52. Epub 2019 Jun 14. doi: 10.1111/blar.12885
Burnyeat G. Chocolate, Politics and Peace-building: An Ethnography of the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó, Colombia. Palgrave Macmillan, 2018. 263 p. doi: 10.1007/978-3-319-51478-9
Burnyeat G. “Rupture” and the State: The “radical narrative” of the peace community of San José de Apartadó, Colombia. Antípoda. Revista de Antropología y Arqueología. 2017 Sept 1. doi: 10.7440/antipoda29.2017.01
Burnyeat G. On a peak in Darien: Community peace initiatives in Uraba, Colombia. Journal of Human Rights Practice. 2013 Nov 1;5(3):435–445. doi: 10.1093/jhuman/hut016