Dr. Colleen Alena O’Brien

Dr. Colleen Alena O’Brien Dr. Colleen Alena O’Brien Image: privat
  • Researcher, Jena Center for Reconciliation Studies


  • PhD in Linguistics University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. Title of Dissertation: A grammatical description Kamsá, a language isolate of Colombia. December 2018
  • M.A. in Linguistics, University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. May 2013.
  • B.A. in Anthropology & Classical Languages, University of Miami. May 2010
Previous Positions
  • Fulbright Fellowship. Project: “Description and documentation of the Gorontalo Language of Sulawesi.” Gorontalo, Indonesia. November 2019–July 2020
  • Postdoctoral Fellowship. DAAD (Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst). Faculty of Latin American Studies, Freie Universität, Berlin. December 2018–August 2019
  • Visiting Researcher, Faculty of Law, Universidad Libre, Bogotá, Colombia. 2015–2017
Research Interests
  • Reintegration of ex-combatants in Colombia
  • Effects of peace processes on indigenous peoples
  • Documentation, description, and preservation of indigenous languages
  • English (native)
  • Spanish (fluent)
  • Indonesian (conversational)
  • Classical Greek and Latin (reading)
  • Kamsá, Gorontalo, Czech, German, Italian, Swahili, Fataluku, Miskitu, and Subanon (studied and/or researched)

At the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa

  • Linguistics 102: An Introduction to the Study of Language
  • Classics 122: Greek and Roman Mythology
  • Greek and Latin Roots of English
Select Events (Lectures and Conferences)
  • Language Endangerment and Revitalization in Colombia: New political challenges (2019). Paper presented at the Ninth Cambridge Conference on Language Endangerment. University of Cambridge. 02 July 2019
  • Transformation of the ETCRs: (Espacios Territoriales de Capacitación y Reincorporación) in Colombia and the implications for peace (2019). Paper presented at Colombian Days. Jena, Germany. 27–28 May 2019
  • Between Noun Class and Classifier: The case of Kamsá (2019). Paper present at Noun Categorization: From Grammar to Communicative Interaction. Lyon, France. 18–19 April 2019
  • In search of Practical Peacebuilding Strategies for a Changing Colombia (2019). Paper presented at the Society for Applied Anthropology Portland, OR, USA. 19–23 March 2019
  • Retos de reintegración de las FARC: una perspectiva del cine etnográfico (2018). Paper presented in: Entendiendo a los grupos excombatientes: Metodologías alternativas para la investigación del conflicto armado colombiano. Workshop held at: Lateinamerikanische Institut FU-Berlin. 19 December 2018
  • Speaker perceptions of language change: Contact and endangerment of Camsá (2017). Paper presented at the Seventh Cambridge Conference on Language Endangerment. University of Cambridge. 04 July 2017
  • The mysterious case of =em: Grammaticalization of a serial verb construction in Fataluku. with Yuko Otsuka (2017). Paper presented at APLL 9 (Austronesian and Papuan Languages and Linguistics Conference). Paris, France. June 2017
  • No to peace: Contextualizing the Colombian conflict (2017). Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Society for Applied Anthropology. Santa Fe, NM, USA. March 2017
  • Creating relevant curricula for endangered languages in Colombia (2016). Paper presented at the Sixth Cambridge Conference on Language Endangerment. University of Cambridge. July 6, 2016
  • At the crossroads of language death: Displacement, language loss, and identity in Colombia (2016). Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Society for Applied Anthropology, Vancouver, BC, Canada. March 2016
  • What we say and what we mean: Technical and aesthetic considerations of street slang. With Bryan Page (2015). Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Society for Applied Anthropology. Pittsburgh, PA, USA. March 2015
Select Publications
  • Assessing cost-effectiveness in reintegrating ex-combatants in Colombia (2020). Under review
  • Color salience, color term evolution, and the issue of relatedness. With Caleb Everett (2020). Evolang 13 Proceedings
  • Reintegration vs. Reincorporation: Is collective reincorporation possible in Colombia? (2020). Submitted
  • Conducting fieldwork with the FARC: Conversations about violence during a research project in Colombia (2019). Submitted
  • Cultural protection in Colombia: Reflections on indigenous data Sovereignty for understanding structural injustice in a context of war. With Gustavo Rojas-Páez (2020). Submitted
  • The challenges of Kamsá language revitalization in Colombia (2019). Chapter in: Rejecting marginalized status: Educational projects and curricula pushing back against language endangerment. Edited by Ari Sherris and Susan Penfield. Bristol: Multilingual Matters
Other Interests/Additional Information
  • Ethnographic filmmaking