Unsettled Rights: Afro-descendant recognition and ex-situ titling in Colombia

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Ethnic recognition and collective titling have since the second half of the 20th century been promoted as ways of compensating for historical injustices and countering the destructive effects of capitalist development. While holding promise of autonomy, territorial rights, and resource control, they have also been seen as political technologies governing, spatially tying identities to place, and incorporating new areas into capital market relations. This paper draws on and contributes to these debates by exploring how the Colombian legislation for Afro-descendants ethnic recognition and collective titling is understood, employed and ‘reworked’ from below as well as from above. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork, interviews, and document analysis, the paper follows the case of an Afro-descendant sand-extracting community in the Cauca Valley Region, Colombia. Threatened by a competing mining claim, the villagers seek to gain ethnic recognition among other things to secure rights and control mining resources. In the process, the villagers are offered a land plot away from where they live and work to title as their collective territory; a mechanism that I term ‘ex-situ titling’. As the villagers have no prior relation to the land, nor intend to resettle there, I argue that the ex-situ land titling only serves as a procedural step in the process of ethnic recognition, which, nevertheless, contributes to the uncertainty and incertitude around the villagers' ethnic rights and resource control.
TidsskriftPolitical Geography
Antal sider10
StatusUdgivet - 2022

Bibliografisk note

Funding Information:
I send my dearest thanks to the villagers in Brisas del Frayle for receiving me and sharing their lives, concerns, and stories with me. I thank Irene Vélez-Torres for mentoring and facilitating my research in the Cauca Valley. I further wish to thank Christian Lund, Mattias Borg Rasmussen, Penelope Anthias and participants in the ‘Rule and Rupture’ summer lab in June 2018 held in Skagen, Denmark, as well as participants in the panel on ‘Ethnic Territories and the State’ at the Governance at the Edge of the State conference in August 2019 for the constructive comments on earlier drafts of this paper. I also thank Stine Krøijer and the three anonymous reviewers for comments that helped shape the final version of this paper. I take full responsibility for any remaining errors. This research was supported by funding from the European Research Council (ERC) [ERC Grant: State Formation Through the Local Production of Property and Citizenship (Ares (2015) 2785650–ERC-2014-AdG–662770-Local State)].

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 The Author


  • Det Samfundsvidenskabelige Fakultet - Ethnic recognition, Collective territories, Ex-situ titling, Afro-descendants, Colombia, Politics of recognition, Collective titling, Ethnic territories, Land rights

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