Book review: Nonviolent Resistance Against Armed Groups in Colombia


A new book from the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict

The International Center on Nonviolent Conflict is pleased to share with you our first publication in the 2015 Monograph Series. The ICNC Monograph Series brings to fruition the scholarly work of the recipients of the 2014 ICNC Research Monograph Award, which aims to support academic research and writing that enhances the strategic practice and global understanding of civil resistance.


Confronted with civil war, local civilians typically either collaborate with the strongest actor in town or flee the area. Yet civilians are not stuck inexorably within this dichotomous choice. Collectively defying armed groups by engaging in organized nonviolent forms of noncooperation, self-organization and disruption is another option. 

The Power of Staying Put: Nonviolent Resistance Against Armed Groups in Colombia by Juan Masullo J. explores this option through a case study of sustained and organized civil resistance led by ordinary peasants against state and non-state repressive actors in Colombia’s longstanding civil war. It tells the story of the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó (PCSJA), formally established in 1996, which has used a vast array of nonviolent tactics ranging from public declarations to establishing alternative educational institutions and markets. This impressive tactical diversity has gained considerable international support and, to this day, helps sustain the Community’s resilience. 

The PCSJA case leaves us with an important message regarding the scale at which ongoing peace efforts in Colombia can be advanced. National peace negotiations usually take place between high-level representatives of warring parties, without involving authentic grassroots peacemakers such as the PCSJA. 

The author, Juan Masullo, is a Doctoral Researcher at the Department of Political and Social Sciences at the European University Institute (EUI). A Colombia-native and frequent visitor of the village of San José, his research interests include nonviolent strategies, social movements and collective actions.

(Thank you to Janet Hudgins, the CPNN reporter for this article.)

Question(s) related to this article:

What is happening in Colombia, Is peace possible?

This discussion question applies to the following articles:

Colombian villagers practice non-violent resistance
Legacy of a Nonviolent Political Leader: Governor Guillermo Gaviria of Colombia
Working for a Culture of Peace in the Valley of the Cauca, Colombia
Remise des Prix de la Fondation Chirac pour la prévention des conflits
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The University and the Peace Process in Colombia
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Peace is not stopped by borders (Colombia and Venezuela)
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Colombian Govt and FARC Reach Agreement on First Stage of Peace Talks
Colombia Campaña de la ONU “La Paz es mía”
UN Campaign in Colombia:
Presidente colombiano reactivará la Comisión Nacional de Paz
Colombian President to Reactivate National Peace Commission
FARC-EP y Gobierno colombiano avanzan en acuerdos para la paz
FARC-EP and Colombia Government advance in their peace accords
Colombia debe ser también la Nación más educada en derechos humanos: Presidente Santos
Colombia should also be the most educated nation in human rights : President Santos
Gabriel García Márquez and the peace process in Colombia
Colombia amanece con un presidente reelecto, esperanzada en la paz
Colombia awakens to hopes for peace with the re-election of their president
Mujer, ruralidad y memoria, entre los temas del congreso de paz (Bogotá, Colombia)
Women, rurality and historical memory among the themes of the Peace Congress (Bogotá, Colombia)
Sonia Ines Goéz Orrego on a speaking tour in the U.S. to share her experience building peace in Colombia
Pax Christi International Peace Award 2015: Women Collective for Reflection and Action (Colombia)
FARC-EP y Gobierno colombiano crearán Comisión de la Verdad
Planning for a Peace Assembly in the Colombian Caribbean
Inician construcción de Asamblea por la Paz en el caribe colombiano
Colombia: Ministerio del Trabajo acompañará, garantizará y facilitará Segunda Asamblea Nacional por la Paz
Colombia: The Labor Minister will provide full guarantees, facilitate and promote the Second National Assembly for Peace
Colombia: The Labor Minister will provide full guarantees, facilitate and promote the Second National Assembly for Peace
San Agustín, Colombia: escenario de la Bienal internacional de educación y cultura de paz
San Agustin, Colombia to host International Biennial of Education and Culture of Peace
Carta de Colombia
Letter from Colombia