Current Institutional Affiliation
Assistant Professor, History, Rutgers State Univ

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2012
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
History, Columbia University
“The Darkest Place in New Granada”: The Abolition of Slavery and the Politics of Place in Chocó, Colombia, 1821-1852

The abolition of slavery entailed the disruption, dislocation, and reformulation of places across world regions. Focusing on the northwestern province of Chocó, Colombia, my project examines how key places of slave and free black life were reconfigured during the gradual abolition of slavery (1821-1852) in the historic heart of Colombia’s gold mining economy. I examine this transformative thirty-year period through the politics of place, a concept influenced by approaches in geography, anthropology, and critical theory. The politics of place is a dual concept I use to analyze both the discursive representations of a place, such as the description of Chocó as “the darkest place in New Granada” in 1836, and the ways in which a place, such as a home, was lived and negotiated in the everyday. Functioning on various scales of analysis—micro-level, regional, and transnational—I analyze five central places of Afro-Colombian life in Chocó: the gold mine; the home; rivers; public spaces (churches, plazas, and cemeteries); and a final chapter on Chocó’s relationship to two important places: the southwestern city of Popayán, where the vast majority of Chocó’s major slaveowners lived, and the “Black Pacific,” referring to the group of black communities along Latin America’s Pacific Coast. In addition to examining the role of place in struggles of freedom and citizenship, my project proposes a new theoretical understanding of a politics of place, challenges scholars to examine other places of political life excluded by literature on the public sphere and popular politics, and historicizes the idea of a “Black Pacific,” a newly developing transnational concept in African Diasporic studies.