Cover of Black Autonomy by Jennifer Goett
Black Autonomy
Race, Gender, and Afro-Nicaraguan Activism
Jennifer Goett

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November 2016
240 pages.
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Cloth ISBN: 9780804799560
Paper ISBN: 9781503600546
Digital ISBN: 9781503600553
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Decades after the first multicultural reforms were introduced in Latin America, Afrodescendant people from the region are still disproportionately impoverished, underserved, policed, and incarcerated. In Nicaragua, Afrodescendants have mobilized to confront this state of siege through the politics of black autonomy. For women and men grappling with postwar violence, black autonomy has its own cultural meanings as a political aspiration and a way of crafting selfhood and solidarity.

Jennifer Goett's ethnography examines the race and gender politics of activism for autonomous rights in an Afrodescedant Creole community in Nicaragua. Weaving together fifteen years of research, Black Autonomy follows this community-based movement from its inception in the late 1990s to its realization as an autonomous territory in 2009 and beyond. Goett argues that despite significant gains in multicultural recognition, Afro-Nicaraguan Creoles continue to grapple with the day-to-day violence of capitalist intensification, racialized policing, and drug war militarization in their territories. Activists have responded by adopting a politics of autonomy based on race pride, territoriality, self-determination, and self-defense. Black Autonomy shows how this political radicalism is rooted in African diasporic identification and gendered cultural practices that women and men use to assert control over their bodies, labor, and spaces in an atmosphere of violence.

About the author

Jennifer Goett is Associate Professor of Comparative Cultures and Politics at James Madison College, Michigan State University.

"Jennifer Goett's fine book shows, with vivid ethnography, how Afro-Nicaraguan political mobilization is inspired by the vernacular cultural practices of women and men. Her book provides penetrating insight into the way multiculturalist reforms that give rights to racialized minorities coexist with rapacious and punitive forms of 'development,' by state and private sector interests, operating in transnational and gendered circuits of geopolitics and capital."

—Peter Wade, University of Manchester

"Black Autonomy is a powerfully argued and beautifully written entrée to the intimate social worlds of people struggling for livelihood and autonomy on Nicaragua's Atlantic coast. Taking readers into the inner lives of local residents, Jennifer Goett explores how gender-based solidarity is produced and mobilized to challenge military occupation, counternarcotics policing, and sexual violence. Through feminist activist ethnography, Goett effectively conveys the voices and experiences of local actors while significantly advancing our understanding of what it takes to commit anthropology's resources to local projects of liberation."

—Daniel M. Goldstein, Rutgers University

"Black Autonomy powerfully interrogates the regionally and racially disparate effects of neoliberalism, drug war capitalism, state securitization, and state-sanctioned sexual violence in post-Cold War Nicaragua. Jennifer Goett presents a compelling analysis of the gendered struggle of Afrodescendants, particularly Creoles, for full rights of multicultural citizenship, including territorial autonomy. Goett's feminist activist ethnography is an important contribution to studies of post-conflict Central America and the African diaspora."

—Faye V. Harrison, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign