The Tree of Love: Life Writing and ‘Seasons of Self’ by Former Child Soldiers in Colombia

Mathew Charles, Karen Fowler-Watt

Research output: Contribution to journalResearch Articlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Autobiographies of childhood generally focus on narratives of nostalgia or trauma, depicting notions of lost innocence. This article posits that such a Global North perspective needs to be re-imagined when listening to the ‘self-stories’ of child soldiers from Colombia’s indigenous Nasa community in the Cauca region. They described their experiences of conflict in a series of narrative workshops located around the Tree of Love, (el árbol del amor)—a place where hopes and dreams are shared, its strength and constancy representing the resilience of the Nasa people in the face of violence. These shared narratives are presented as 4 chapters, each depicting a season, characterised by a different form of epiphany, constituting ‘liminal experiences connected to moments of … crisis’ [Denzin, N. K. 2017. Interpretive Autoethnography, Sage Research Methods Online. London: Sage. Accessed June 4, 2020., 52]. The article is presented in narrative style, enabling the researchers to stay close to the young child soldiers’ lives. Together these narrative extracts offer a mosaic of auto/biographical experiences that portray the journey from war child to child soldier to child survivor. The ability to resist re-recruitment in spaces that remain dangerous, where the cycle of violence is relentless, appears to be bolstered by an agency that comes from within, offering potential for post-traumatic growth.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalLife Writing
StateAccepted/In press - 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Literature and Literary Theory


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