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The Political Ecology of Maroon Autonomy: Land, Resource Extraction and Political Change in 21st Century Jamaica and Suriname


The primary concern in this dissertation is the question of how racially marginalized societies practicing autonomous governance negotiate conflicts with sovereign states over resource extraction and its consequences. Specifically, this research provides a description, interpretation, and analysis of contemporary social organization and governance of the Maroon polity of Accompong as it brings to bear a distinct history of resistance onto the terrain of political conflict and negotiations with the Jamaican state. The Ndyuka Maroon polities of the Moengo region of Suriname are used as a comparative example where, like Jamaica, the activities of the aluminum industry are the fulcrum of an environmental and political crisis threatening Maroon territorial and cultural integrity. Standing as the first comparison of these two Maroon societies in the contemporary period, this research reveals that Accompong has developed political strategies of separatism and sovereignty while seeking stability with the Jamaican state, whereas the Ndyuka have eschewed separatism in favor of state entryism. These divergent strategies are responses to the differential tolerances of each national state toward Maroon autonomy given political economic calculations based on the valuation of Maroon land for its resource wealth. Yet, in both Maroon communities, a practice of environmental preservationism grounded in distinct collective memories of resistance to enslavement has guided their responses to the crisis. Ultimately, 21st century Maroon political action suggests the need for plurinational and decentralized approaches to national state formation. This research uses systematic empirical data, articulated through an engagement with key theories in both African Diaspora Studies and Environmental Studies, to create a generative conversation between the two fields. This research contributes to a greater understanding of environmental politics, ethnic multiplicity in the African diaspora, the politics of autonomy, diaspora theory, Caribbean colonial history, socio-economic development in developing countries, and the lateral possibilities of freedom and social transformation.

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