The body as a practise of freedom: Collective creation laboratory for nonviolent action

A protest. A woman in the fore ground is asked wit h the word "imperialism". She is throwing a red cloth. Behind her are other masked protesters.
Participants in the "Antimilitarism in Movement" street action
Paola Castaño Antolinez

As we reflect on the Antimilitarism in Movement conference, the escalating conflict in Colombia, throughout Latin America and the world, as well as the encounter between the different manifestations of resistance from civil society, we can see how nonviolent direct action continues to be a strategy of nonviolent empowerment that interweaves ideas, stories and alternatives.

By articulating the ethical, the political, the aesthetic, the bodily and the communicative, active nonviolent action seeks to resonate in human consciousness, awakening and allowing transformation to take place from below. Nonviolent action involves the community in the construction of solutions to oppressive situations, affirms life, and, through the exchange of experiences concretely transforms social injustice.

Therefore, with the goal of strengthening dialogue on the importance of inspiring nonviolent collective actions and practices that illustrate the militarisation of societies, and to allow international actions across borders, Colombian antimilitarist organisations Cuerpo Con-siente1 and La Acción Colectiva de Objetores y Objetoras de Conciencia (ACOOC)2 started a "Collective Creative Laboratory". Over a period of two months, the "Laboratory" explored, as described by Estefanía, the founder of Cuerpo Con-siente, a "return to the body, to become aware of our actions in correspondence with our thoughts and emotions, which in turn embody our political and social stakes" (Gómez. E. 2019).

Next I will describe some of the elements of a Laboratory, explore how this process can be used to build a nonviolent action, and explain how this intersects with my identity as a conscientious objector and with my own commitment to spaces for relational transformations, within the current context of sustained and much-needed popular struggle.

Personal experience and vital learning

The laboratory begins, encounters await... one by one, we arrive in a space where we will be challenged to create collectively, becoming a conscious mass. A little anxious, full of excitement at being able to interlink lives, personal memories, political subjectivities, human sensibilities, our deepest fears and hopes, our incarnated anger... this is how we begin the Collective Creative Laboratory.

The Laboratory is a space that comes with a commitment to remain; to listen; to propose; to strengthen and articulate proposals, ideas, and feelings in a scenic, aesthetic, sonorous, sensitive construction. It is a space that allows us to raise our voices and manifest ourselves.


We are still standing to stop the efforts of wars and silence to govern our rebellion. We honour those who resist patriarchy, borders, armies, extractivism, oblivion, forced disappearances, dispossession, death and those who, even in their absence, continue to inspire us, because their struggles are our struggles, and here they sustain us.

May the blood spilt by the power of our veins, of life and love, in our actions and territories, stir hope. Let freedom come, the gleam in the eyes, resistance and disobedience without condition; Let our organized rage come beating wide, to the rhythm of our dreams and utopias.

How to cure pain and war? They say with time and distance, but we are Here and it is Now.

Feeling your life, and seeing your eyes, mobilises me. Heal me and I heal you, let's heal both of us, the three of us, all of us. Because even though we live miles apart, we are bodies that love and resist.

May freedoms, cries and songs come in disobedience and in defence of life, territories, differences and encounters to confirm that we are more.

( Antimilitarist Manifesto to heal hearts: written with several hands and feelings, with Ana, Laura, María Camila, Silvia, Estefanía, Diego and Leonardo.)

The Laboratory is a space that explores ways of looking at life through art and movement. A space of restoration for the body and being in the body, an essential element of our resistance in the era of neoliberalism, an exploratory and transgressive space that builds our committed to our cause. Participants have a powerful eagerness to rediscover themselves, and to learn to be with others. Through movement, I remember the immense power of the interaction of the individual body with the collective body, discovering the relationship between thought, body, and action.

Nonviolent action as pedagogical and resistance experience

As an educator, and based on the methodological approach of Cuerpo Con-siente (what we call “LA MAR”, or “the sea”) I see a Laboratory as an alternative approach to learning that arises from the idea of subverting the established forms of relationship with oneself, with others and with the world. It is a strategy that aims to open a space in which participants can share their knowledge, feelings and experiences through exercises that involve the body and the image, movement, singing, writing, the relationship with space, the construction of new collective notions that make it possible to understand and experience life from the bodily and sensitive powers in articulation with different relational environments.

As Leonardo Boff rightly states: "[...] pedagogical measures that go beyond the academic sphere and penetrate not only institutions, but also consciences". (Álamo Santos. 2011. P. 249). Corporal and creative work gives meaning to pedagogical action, articulating with the dialogue of knowledge, cultural negotiation, participation and cooperation as relevant principles for the process of collective construction.

Proposing sessions in which there are no correct forms of movements or specific “body phrases” (choreographies), a space is made for the discovery between movements, the enjoyment of uncertainty during the process of creative construction, by means of body work as an enabler of individual and collective transformations in the dimensions of "the intimate", "the public-private", "the political" and "the social". Building a nonviolent direct action as a result of this process of liberation and configuration of the body as a communicative channel means "understanding the fabric of intentions, actions and experiences of individuals who, through movement, create senses and meanings to engage in dialogue" (Gómez, 2019).

Thus, the Laboratory becomes a body of relationships, a composition of plural bodies that bring with them the contents of a sonorous, tactile, rational and sensitive experiences; embodied identities that together build collective ones. It is territory susceptible of being inhabited, in which the possibilities of verbal and non-verbal communicative action are explored; as well as the reflection on what we communicate. The space is an exchange, a sharing of the symbolic universe that reconfigures messages and concrete actions to denounce, make visible and sensitize.

Because the "body as experience" endows gives clarity to our thinking around geopolitics, violence, capitalism, the exercise of militarist power that today occurs as a global phenomenon with localities and temporalities, it explains the limits of the ontological and the human possibilities; it provides a kind of experience of itself in which the invisible individual emerges as a proposition of itself.

And so, the Collective Creative Caboratory becomes a space for subversion of the disciplinary regime, which regulates the development of certain relationships between human beings, integrates them into the socio-political system through cultural practices incorporated into the body,and normalises our thought processes as a governmental strategy to establish a particular model of social functioning. Therefore, it is through the body as the narrative of the action that this subversion occurs, in the opportunity to enunciate the meanings of the action itself (NVDA) for social organization and the struggle for the demilitarization of bodies, minds and territories.

1 Collective of pedagogical research and collective creation aimed at social transformation and peace building. (

2 Collective Action of Conscientious Objectors. A non-profit organization that works for the freegnition of the right to refuse to participate directly or indirectly in any military army or war. (


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