Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2019
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Governing in Sovereignty's Interstices: The Politics of Land in Nicaragua's Rama-Kriol Territory

This ethnographic project picks up a key thread in the political and legal anthropology of Indigenous and Afrodescendant peoples of Latin America: understanding the titling of vast swathes of communal lands. Over the past three decades, the struggles of Indigenous and Afrodescendant peoples for autonomy and territory resulted in neoliberal states, with support from international financial institutions, establishing mechanisms to title millions of hectares of lands throughout Latin America as communal property. In recent years, social scientists have concluded that these titles have not, in fact, led to Indigenous and Afrodescendant communal control over titled lands, but this dissertation project proposes to investigate the knock-on effects of titling programs for governance and territoriality for the recipient communities. Over the course of twelve months of research in the joint territory of nine Indigenous Rama and Afrodescendant Kriol communities on the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua, I will examine how the receipt of a title to 400,000 hectares, and the formation of a territorial government to manage that territory, has shaped community politics, relations with the state, understandings of territoriality, the ability to possess territory, and gendered racializations of territory and governance. Throughout participant observation, interviews, and archival research, I will focus especially on the management of the physical occupancy of the territory, the gathering and management of information about the occupancy of the territory, and the contestation of the capacity of different levels of government to decide on the management of the territory. This research will allow me to answer broader anthropological and social scientific questions on territory, governance, sovereignty, and the political horizons of Indigenous and Afrodescendant movements in Latin America.