María Fernanda Olarte-Sierra

maría fernanda olarte-sierra_copyright maría fernanda olarte-sierra


María Fernanda Olarte-Sierra (Mafe) is a medical anthropologist and an anthropologist of science who focuses on ethnographic research. She addresses interactions of health, technology, and the body in highly medicalized and technological contexts in Latin America. She recently finished a Marie Skłodowska-Curie fellow at the University of Amsterdam with a project that addresses the role of judicial and humanitarian forensic knowledge in co-producing collective accounts of violence in Colombia. 

Currently, in the group Medical Anthropology and Global Health, she is addressing questions of peace and reconciliation in relation to social suffering and collective struggle. Her work focuses on the search for forcibly disappeared persons as practices of collective care and sites of reconciliation in war-ridden contexts. Her current focus is on the experiences and practices of people who, while living in exile, continue searching for their loved ones who disappeared in Latin American countries.

Illustration by Gina Urazan Razzini

Research Focus


Contact Details

Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology
NIG, 4th floor
Universitätsstraße 7
1010 Vienna

selected publications

Peer-Reviewed Journal Articles

Olarte-Sierra M.F. (2023) On bodies and our own bodies Care and vulnerability when teaching about death and loss. Curare Journal of Medical Anthropology. 46 (1) (Forthcoming).

Olarte-Sierra M.F. (2023) Forensic tales: Embodied peace and violence in Colombian armed (post)conflict. An audio-visual exploration. TRAJECTORIA. Anthropology. Museums and Art. 4 (Forthcoming. March 31st 2023)

Olarte-Sierra, M.F, V. García-Deister and D. Congram. (2023). “Prácticas forenses y violencia en masa: perspectivas contemporáneas y retos investigativos” [“Forensic Practices and Mass Violence: Contemporary Perspectives and Investigative Challenges”]. Antípoda. Revista de Antropología y Arqueología 50: 3-17.

Olarte-Sierra M.F. (2022) (Un)Doing the Colombian armed conflict: forensic knowledge, contradicting bodies, unsettling stories. Social Anthropology 30(3): 19-37

Olarte-Sierra M.F. and J.E. Castro Bermúdez (2021). De guerrilleros a víctimas; de héroes a perpetradores: movimientos y relaciones del conflicto armado colombiano y la práctica de identificación forense en el caso de los Falsos Positivos [From guerrilla members to victims; From Heroes to Perpetrators: Movements and Relationships of the Colombian Armed Conflict and the Practice of Forensic Identification inthe case of False Positives]. Papeles del CEIC 2: 1-17

Book Chapters

Olarte-Sierra M.F. and J.E. Castro Bermúdez (2023). Technolegal worlds in an armed conflict: The forensic making of victims in Colombia. In Toom, V., Wienworth, M. and M’charek, A. (eds.) Law, Practice and Politics of Forensic DNA Profiling Forensic Genetics and their Technolegal Worlds. Londres, Routledge, p.p 23-37

Olarte-Sierra M.F. (2022) Balance y flexibilidad en los límites. Prácticas forenses en Colombia en la implementación del acuerdo de paz. In García Deister V. (ed) La genética forense en México: interacciones, infraestructuras e indocilidades. Ciudad de México, Siglo XXI editores, p.p: 159-180

Olarte-Sierra M.F.  (2022) Truth and facts production and delivery: The (in)Visibility of Forensic Scientists in Colombia. In Banghman, J., Chako, X. and Kaplan, J. (eds) (In)visible Labour. Rowman and Littlefield, p.p 61-70

Contributions to Academic Blogs

Olarte-Sierra, M.F. 2020. When Coronavirus Meets an Armed Conflict. Death and Dying in Colombia During the COVID-19 Pandemic. UCL Medical Anthropology blog.
September 2020

Olarte-Sierra, M.F. 2018. Unearthing Knowledge: Forensic Anthropology and Technologies of Memory. CASTAC blog. Platypus (blog).
April 10, 2018.

Opinion Blogs

Olarte-Sierra M.F (2021) When apathy wins. ReDflection. Embrace Dialogue. November 3rd 2021