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Articulations of blackness: Journeys of an emplaced politics in Colombia

  • Author(s): Cardenas Gonzalez, Roosbelinda
  • Advisor(s): Anderson, Mark D
  • et al.

This dissertation explores the changing relation between Afro-descendants' ethno-racial identities and territoriality in Colombia. This interest emerges out of two key events in recent Colombian history. The first is the passage of Law 70, which granted cultural and territorial rights to black communities of the Pacific watershed and institutionalized the relation between "territory" and "black culture" in Colombia. The second is an important shift in the logic of Colombia's armed conflict, which in the late 1990s increasingly focused on territorial control. I analyze the current moment of exacerbated violence as a critical conjuncture in which the articulation of blackness and territoriality is unmade and remade; as both tragedy and opportunity.

The historical turning point for this analysis is a 1996 paramilitary attack in the department of Chocó, which marked the beginning of a brutal wave of violence that has since enveloped the Pacific region. I contend that this irruption of violence created a new conjuncture that brought about a significant rearticulation of ethno-territorial blackness. In order to trace the multiple shapes that black politics have taken since, I follow a multi-sited ethnographic approach that looks at processes of political mobilization, local livelihoods and landscapes, and dynamics of violent and nonviolent mobility. In Bogotá, I examine processes of subject formation amongst black IDPs (internally displaced persons) in an urban peripheral neighborhood. I also analyze the shifts in discourses and strategies employed by Colombia's two main black organizations, as well as their changing dynamics with state entities and NGOs that deal with forced displacement. Finally, I analyze the practice of "emplaced" blackness by looking at land tenure, landscaping practices, and livelihoods in a black community with a titled collective territory.

Overall, I argue that ethnic blackness in Colombia has become linked to an emergent politics of victimization and a resurfacing of African diasporic networks of racial solidarity. Thus, I show that the various articulations of blackness are not only matters of identity politics, but also lie at the heart of struggles over the definitions of nature, the right to dwell and move, and the creation and management of victimized subjects.

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