Relatos del futuro/ The Future is Unwritten (Colombia)

Changing the Story’s Phase 1 Colombia strand incorporates two areas of research. The first, an experimental project that seeks to stimulate creativity among young people dwelling at the borders of precariousness. The second, a comparative study that considers the construction of worlds through social imaginaries and investigates how dominant imaginaries can be a barrier to an alternative future.

Tales of the Future: Senses, Creativity and the Arts of Survival (Colombia)

‘Relatos del futuro: sentidos, creatividad y las artes de la supervivencia en Colombia’ is a collaborative, experimental and itinerant project that seeks to stimulate creative embryos (or artistic ensembles) among young people inhabiting the borders of precariousness in Colombia. It is a Phase 1 project of Changing the Story.


In the middle of the current and complex transitional scenario, which we identify not only as a series of unresolved tensions between fractures and continuities of diverse forms of violence but also as a moment in which a retrospective gesture seems to co-exist with the prospective illusion of a new imagined society, Tales is concerned with creative forms of narrating or articulating the future as a possibility through different languages of collective pain and particular modes of integrating lived experience, whether they are corporeal, visual, sonic or textual among other possibilities. Likewise, we are interested in the textures and creative modulations of daily survival of these youth and their complex contexts, as well as in the economies of solidarity that will grow out of these embryos. This project is sustained on a vision of peace in a small scale in which the restitution of the other’s neighborliness and the transformation of the imaginaries ossified over the years of war and armed conflict takes particular importance.

The project began with a critical review, which synthesised existing practice by arts initiatives addressing peace, conflict and reconciliation. This was based on two types of data; interviews with relevant organisations, and official information from the National Centre for Historical Memory, the Ministry of Culture, and the Office of the Major of Bogota. Overall, more than eighty initiatives were reviewed for the critical review, including those working specifically with young people. In all places that were reviewed, precariousness, joblessness and violence are some of the main features defining the life of the young people. There is deep a scepticism about so-called development projects (in any of its ideological variations), international cooperation, and even social research in general. They are perceived as mining, “extractivist”, short-term interventions. This helped guide the parameters and construction of the study and pilot in question.

Relevant debates with young people concerning their experience of violence on their own experience and crucially, that of their communities, were then conducted in seven poverty and conflict –affected areas of the country and acted as sites of data gathering and scoping. These included: Quibdó (Chocó), Buenaventura (Valle del Cauca), Cali-Ginebra (Valle del Cauca), Medellín (Antioquía)

A micro-regional pilot was completed in Ginebra-Paramo de las Hermosas in November 2018, which is now leading to the development of a longer, itinerant project collecting sonic biographies capturing the relationship between young people, the experience of violence, the natural diversity of the environment and the alternative imaginary of the future in three other locations in Colombia.

In addition to work focused at a local-level in the Pacific coastline region of Colombia, the project is also developing transnational cooperative initiatives concerned with youth and recovery from violence between Colombia, Brazil and the UK.

Hear more about the project’s concept of ‘Peace on a Small Scale’ from Co-Investigator Prof. Alejandro Castillejo-Cuéllar:

The Future is Unwritten: Social imaginaries, Skills & Culture in Colombia

Credit: Emily Morrison

The Imaginary

Peoples’ worlds are constructed through collective, social imaginaries (Anderson, 1981; Taylor, 2004). The imaginary articulates how peoples’ worlds are created through shared values and beliefs, often drawn from collective lived experiences. As such, the modern social imaginary can be formed from problematic paradigms affecting the social consciousness, such as violence. These imaginaries can dominate over a society, giving continued life to problematic dynamics from the past and restricting a community’s transition into an alternative future

 Central research questions

  • How do some imaginaries come to dominate?
  • What is the link between culture & the imaginary?
  • What is the relationship between imaginaries & memory?

Comparative Methodology

  • Interviewed social actors involved in culture, violence and policy
  • Explored the broader social imaginary and policy environment inhabiting Colombia.
  • Compared Colombia and Brazil – interviews and observations.
  • Comparative approach – sharing radical methodologies and practice frm both countries.
  • Look to develop new imaginaries and new policies

 Theoretical Lens

Fused ideas of hegemony, cultural field, imaginaries and hybridity to create a theoretical and analytical lens to interrogate interviews:


Project just concluded. Early results explored the concepts of:

  • Field of power and Field of violence shaping imaginaries, including memory
  • Counterhegemonic Imaginaries emerged, where Culture can be used as a tool to transform social imaginaries and policy, building peace

Hear more about The Future is Unwritten project from Co-Investigator Simon Dancey:

Read the latest news from this project

View all Posts

In Colombia on a recent visit as a Co-Investigator for Changing the Story in 2018, I learned the government narrative...


  Esta región en Colombia inevitablemente me recuerda el Chocó (la Serranía del Baudó, donde hice mi primer trabajo de...


Navegando el río Atrato en el pacífico Colombiano¹ Escrito por Alex Sierra Hace 20 años navegué por primera vez el...


The “Tales of the Future: Senses, Creativity and the Arts of Survival in Colombia” is the focus of the Phase...


Project Location

Static google map

The River Atrato, Colombia

‘Tales of the Future’ has been working with young people along the River Atrato as part of their Phase 1 Changing the Story project.