Access Type

Open Access Embargo

Date of Award

January 2022

Degree Type


Degree Name




First Advisor

Todd Meyers

Second Advisor

Andrew Newman


In the early hours of May 28, 2016, the mayor of Bogotá, along with the Colombian military and SpecialForces, seized the biggest olla or open-air drug market in Colombia at the time. The olla known as “El Bronx” was a three-block area in downtown Bogotá and where over 2,000 people found shelter under the authority of paramilitary affiliated crime bands controlling the city’s drug trade. Widely depicted by the media and the broader polity as an “inferno,” El Bronx was regarded as a space where those socially relegated outside of the human were encumbered by seemingly endless transgression and drug use. What ensued was a mass expulsion of people who lived on the streets, many who were taken into the city’s patios, or rehabilitation centers.

Set in the aftermath of rampant militarization and humanitarian intervention, “La Olla y Los Patios: AnEthnography of Place, Selfhood, Violence, and Rehabilitation in Bogotá,” reckons with the category of the human while showcasing other ways of being, other ways of inhabiting time and place partially untethered from the constraints of liberal humanism. Moving across time and place, between the city’s rehabilitation centers and the streets for the people formerly living in El Bronx, the dissertation retrieves state-administered historical elisions of other similarly destroyed ollas in the city, from which people had also been uprooted, as well as charts how historical memory comes to be inhabited, felt, and shared by people from the ollas. This work is informed by preliminary fieldwork in downtown Bogotá between the summer months of 2012-2015, and 24 months of consecutive fieldwork in 2016-2017. The majority of this fieldwork takes place in the Bogotá municipalities downtown of Santa Fé, Los Mártires, and Puente Aranda. Written through a narrative-oriented mode, La Olla y Los Patios is a constellation of ethnographic scenes that attempt to change the terms of engagement for how we can begin to acknowledge the many challenging circumstances for people caught between the state and organized crime.

The writing that I take up is centered on sensuous storytelling, allegorical, and pictorial modes of thinkingthat garner an imagistic anthropology. Drawing from others in anthropology, I take up images as vital for anthropology in their capacity to hold incommensurate aspects of a scene within the same frame. Thinking with and through images can conjure a world without drowning it with explanation or proposing a one-dimensional way to think through any given polemic. This dissertation engages contradiction, opacity, and situations of impossibility not as things to analytically resolve, but at times, as the very grounds for engaging the worlds my interlocutors inhabit. Through the capaciousness of images to host contradiction within the same frame, this work conjures a set of scenes and ethnographic images. La Olla y Los Patios can be thus be understood as a mosaic of scene-images. Each scene is meant to stand on its own, and home in on a particular sliver of people’s lived experiences as they shuttle between the ollas, the drug markets and the patios, the rehab centers.

Available for download on Tuesday, December 12, 2023