Double Displacement?

Defining Double Displacement

Double Displacement represents two forms of forced migration. First, it represents displacement from place of origin due to conflict. Then, a second displacement occurs due to development. 

This project examines the double displacement of small-scale farmers in Colombia.  While others have also used the concept (see: Marko, Tamara 2012), in the context of this research project, double displacement signifies, first, being forced to move from their homes and lands due to armed actors and, second, after having resettled in the city, facing a second displacement due to different factors in the city: urban development projects, rising housing prices, and tensions with the city government or other entities, like gangs.

While Colombia is typically associated with cocaine production and trafficking, what is less talked about is the forced displacement of more than 7 million citizens, making Colombia the country with the second largest population of internally displaced persons in the world.

Over five decades of civil war between left-wing guerrillas, right-wing paramilitaries, and the Colombian military has resulted in the massive displacement of peasant farmers, with 90% of the displaced resettling in urban areas of the country.also


Why focus on Medellín?

Medellín is a key site since areas of conflict are located in the department of Antioquia where this city is the capital. The city receives a large population of internally displaced persons who have been key to its social, political and urban development.

Once homicide capital of the world, and home to Pablo Escobar, Medellín  is now a site of global finance and fashion, transportation, and urban development and innovation, rebranding itself on the world stage as an urban “miracle.” But waves of displaced peasants clash with this global city’s image. Their segregation in informal settlements on the peripheries and their inability to participate in the formal urban labor market affects their long term integration, particularly in terms of their upward mobility.

Research Methodology

Research for the Double Displacement Project draws from ethnographic, survey, and visual approaches to understand the lived experience of double displacement  and its impact on the belonging of displaced persons. 

Since June 2011, the Double Displacement Project has conducted 115 ethnographic interviews and 112 surveys with internally displaced persons, government administrators, and NGOs in Medellín and Bogota, Colombia. 

Surveys and ethnographic interviews help describe the lives and politics of displaced people living in informal settlements in the peripheries of Medellín.  Photographic methods provides a glimpse into these communities from the perspective of the displaced. Through interviews, participants served as experts in their own lived experiences by sharing their stories of displacement, struggle and resistance.

Life Cycle of Forced Migration

The Double Displacement Project analyzes the influence of displacement on integration and citizenship in Colombia through what we call the life-cycle of forced migration.  

The Life Cycle of Forced Migration was formulated to conceptualize forced displacement as a lifelong process. Using the life-cycle of forced migration as an analytical approach allows for the examination of processes related to displacement overtime. It also offers a framework for analyzing displacement beyond a single event. The cycle consists of four steps: displacement, resettlement, integration, and community-building.

What We've Learned

This research asks, “how do citizens become non-citizens?” The findings reveal that even after decades in the city, displaced farmers experience stigma, inadequate state aid and attention, and segregation in informal urban settlements and labor sector. Displaced persons are treated as failed citizens who have claims to formal rights but are limited in their ability to practice those rights fully. This demonstrates that citizenship does not guarantee rights. For example, being unable to find stable work because the skills necessary to thrive in their rural hometowns do not transfer into the urban labor market. Understanding how people do or don’t feel like they belong is important because if people do not feel like they belong to in their country, it can cause instability. A collective sense of belonging is key to a democracy.