Profile: Aldo Civico

Assistant Professor of Anthropology; Co-Founder, The International Institute for Peace

Department of Sociology and Anthropology


Sociocultural and political anthropology; Latin America (with a focus on Colombia); political violence; armed conflict; narco trafficking; conflict resolution; internally displaced people; human rights; child soldiers; youth violence; urban security.

No doubt my interest in political violence has been influenced by my upbringing in Italy. My mother’s father, Hubert Saurwein, during War World II was a leader of the armed resistance against Hitler in Tyrol, Austria. I grew up in Italy during years of political unrest and violence, marked by the terrorism of the Red Brigates, the kidnapping and killing of the Italian statist Aldo Moro.

At the beginning of the 1990s, during the moral and non-violent upraise of Sicily against the Cosa Nostra, I decided to move from my hometown Trento, in Northern Italy, to Palermo. There I worked as a communication and political adviser to Leoluca Orlando, the figurehead of the anti-mafia social movement and the mayor of Palermo. Those were the years when the Mafia killed the prosecutors Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino. I became close to a Jesuit father, Ennio Pintacuda, who had been the mastermind behind the social movement resisting the domination of the Mafia. When I was 22 years old, I wrote his intellectual biography, La Scelta (Piemme 1993). After an experience as press secretary of the party La Rete at the Italian Parliament, I became a freelance journalist for German TV and press media authoring numerous reports and documentaries about the social reality of Southern Italy.
In the spring of 2001, I was invited to Colombia to conduct a seminar in conflict resolution and to facilitate a workshop in peace building in a small village affected by political violence. That trip marked the beginning of my work in Colombia. Since, I did not only conduct fieldwork, but I have been involved in cease-fire negotiations between the government of Colombia and the ELN guerrilla.

  • Associated Programs

    Director of The International Institute for Peace
    Center for the Study of Genocide and Human Rights

  • Courses Taught

    Introduction to Cultural Anthropology
    Urban Anthropology
    Anthropology of Power

  • Education

    Ph.D., Anthropology, Columbia University, 2008
    M.A. Anthropology, Columbia University.
    M.A. Political Science, University of Bologna, 1997

  • Publications

    Books and Chapters
    2011 Elusive Peace. The case of the ELN in Colombia, in Negotiating with Extremists. Editor William Zartman, USIP

    2009 Las Guerras de Doble Cero. Bogota, Colombia: Intermedio

    2008 From Violence to Political Engagement. In Conflict Resolution and Peacebuilding. Editors Bruce Dayton and Louis Kriesberg

    1993 La Scelta. Casale Monferrato, Italy: Edizioni Piemme

    2003 Religioese Vertreter Friedensvermittler. Zur Rolle religiöser Persönlichkeiten
    bei der Lösung bewaffneter Conflict. Zetischfrift für Katolische Theologie, Vol.125,
    N.2/3, 2003

    In progress or under review
    Limpieza or the Poetics of Violence of Paramilitary in Colombia (book manuscript)

    Margins: Violence and Every Day in Colombia. Edited book with Victoria Sanford (book manuscript)

    “This area is now clean.” The Poetics of Violence of Paramilitary in Colombia (article under review).

    Policing Medellin. The murky alliance of the paramilitary and law enforcement (article).

  • Research Initiatives

    I am currently working on the manuscript of my book about paramilitary violence in Colombia, based on my fieldwork from 2003 to 2007 when I collected life histories of members of the paramilitary. In the chapter Portrait of a Paramilitary in the edited book “Engaged Observers” I offered a self-reflection on my fieldwork experience among members of the paramilitary (Rutgers University Press, 2006). In Colombia, I wrote a book about Doble Cero, a paramilitary leader (Las Guerras de Doblecero, Intermedio, Bogota 2009).

    Additionally, I am doing an archival research on the internal documents of the Ejercito de Liberación Nacional (ELN), the second largest Colombian insurgency. In the edited book by William Zartman, “Engaging Extremists” I wrote a chapter profiling the ELN guerrilla (USIP, June 2011).

    Because of my experience both in Sicily and in Colombia, I am working on a long term research project on the social history and reality of transnational networks of crime that span from Latin America to the United States. I am also designing a comparative ethnographic research about youth violence in Colombia and in the United States.