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Geographies of Marronage: Dispossession and Resistance in the Last Palenque

Zavala Guillen, Ana Laura (2018) Geographies of Marronage: Dispossession and Resistance in the Last Palenque. PhD thesis, University of Sheffield.

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Abstract

This thesis explores the past and present geographies of dispossession and resistance of the Afro-descendants of the Montes de María in the Colombian Caribbean, constructed and reproduced by community practices since colonial times. The origin of these practices is in the strategy of slave resistance of marronage, the process of enslaved people escaping cities, large farms and mines and building communities (specifically palenques in the Colombian context) away from their owners. The primary study site, San Basilio de Palenque, was such a palenque, and it still exists today as a town of descendants of runaway slaves located in northern Colombia. Qualitative research methods were implemented in this study, including interviews, participatory mapping and archival research in the Archivo General de la Nación de Bogotá [The National General Archive of Bogotá], the Archivo Histórico de Cartagena de Indias [The Historical Archive of Cartagena de Indias], and the Archivo General de Indias [The General Archive of Indies] in Seville, Spain. Furthermore, legal analysis —black-letter, socio-legal and critical studies analysis— was conducted on relevant Colombian legislation. The overall aim of the thesis is to contribute an empirical study as a basis for addressing literature on counter-hegemonic territories that resist state-based territorialities in Latin America by expanding what qualifies as such, and scholarship on how the law can become an instrument of precarity and territorial dispossession by showing how even the most well-intended law can produce dispossession. This thesis develops the concept of geographies of marronage of San Basilio de Palenque as what I call entangled territories of resistance under an ongoing cycle of deterritorialisation and reterritorialisation. This research explores the colonial palenque as the origin of the region’s geographies of marronage by focusing on its transformation from a clandestine site to a poblazion, a part of the colonial regime. A poblazion was a place for realising freedom but, at the same time, a way of isolating blackness in the Colombian Caribbean. However, this new territory rapidly proved precarious, and it has suffered violent deterritorialisation over the course of over two centuries. In response, in recent times many of San Basilio de Palenque’s residents have migrated beyond its borders to form new communities elsewhere, that follow the logic of counter-hegemonic territories. As a strategy of reterritorialisation, these migratory communities – called in this research as urban palenques and refugee-like palenques- along with the town -the mother-palenque- have produced entangled territories of resistance. This spatial production—past and present—follows a recurring logic of marronage through which Palenqueros seek freedom, autonomy and belonging through producing tangible and intangible territories of resistance under conditions of precarity. This research also analyses whether the Colombian land rights discourse protects or endangers these Palenquero entangled territories. The analysis shows how this legal discourse has erased centuries of marronage in the area by legally reconfiguring Maroon spaces as empty, but, at the same time, occupied by Afro-descendants, neither preventing nor reversing land grabbing, but substantially accelerating its appropriation by outsiders. In summary, research findings demonstrate that the colonial logic of marronage is still the basis of current community strategies of reterritorialisation to resist land grabbing. This thesis also evidences how the Colombian state’s land rights discourse is the force behind the territorial dispossession suffered by San Basilio de Palenque by portraying its geographies as precarious, with neither owners nor history, yet occupied by descendants of Maroon people, while acting as a factor of on-the-ground territorialisation in favour of the white elites.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of Sheffield > Faculty of Social Sciences (Sheffield) > Geography (Sheffield)
Depositing User: Dr Ana Laura Zavala Guillen
Date Deposited: 25 Sep 2019 15:49
Last Modified: 25 Sep 2019 15:49
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/24848

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