This chapter introduces the reader to the concept of Black Citizenship developed throughout the book, which is defined as the simultaneous pursuit of national inclusion and diasporic belonging. It also provides a brief historical background that situates Colombia's "multicultural turn" in the context of a protracted war and the ongoing implementation of a peace agreement where questions of citizenship are being renegotiated. Finally, the chapter outlines the research field in detail, describing the geographies and organizations covered in the book, as well as the author's choice of an activist approach to ethnographic research.
Chapter 1 analyzes the process to defend Black Territories in ethnographic detail by looking at the collective land-titling process on the Lower Mira River, where local campesinos felt the pressure of extractive and agricultural industries intensify in the early 1990s. Using interviews with members of the local governing body, residents, and activists, the chapter reconstructs the making of this Black Community. The author shows how local campesinos on the Mira River took up the language of ethnic difference and made recourse to the watershed 1993 piece of multicultural legislation known as the Law of Black Communities (Law 70) to safeguard their livelihoods. While adopting the language of the law, they also pushed at its limits to pursue their own visions of black autonomy.
Chapter 2 focuses on the creation of a political strategy that built on the discourse of ethnic rights to make demands for differential reparations for Afro-Colombian war victims—especially, internally displaced people (IDPs). The chapter traces the process whereby in the early 2000s, an emergent discourse of victimization became entangled with that of ethnic rights and strengthened by a growing attention to antiblack racism. Black activists' rising interest in denouncing racism was due in part to their increased participation in African diasporic spaces such as the 2001 Durban Conference. In the Colombian case, however, it was also triggered by black IDPs' encounters with crude forms of interpersonal racism at their sites of arrival—in white-mestizo dominated places like Bogotá, where they became a hypervisible minority. Together, these experiences—of racial solidarity in the diaspora and intensified racism at home—triggered a process of racial becoming.
Chapter 3 compares the pursuit of differential reparations for war victims to the diasporic movement for historical reparations. The author argues that while timely and powerful, the pursuit of differential war reparations for Afro-Colombians has dangerously tethered blackness to victimization in a nearsighted way, which relies on the hypervisibilization of contemporary suffering as the justification for basic rights. In contrast, the chapter presents the powerful logic undergirding diasporic movements for historical reparations for slavery and the slave trade. While explicit demands for historical reparations are still incipient in Colombia, the work that some black activists have been doing for decades to explicitly link war victimization to historical victimization has laid the groundwork for a robust pursuit of reparations. Rather than see struggles for citizenship as an impediment to historical reparations, the two emerge as intertwined and possibly generative.
Chapter 4 describes the spectrum of political strategies that Afro-Colombian activists have crafted to pursue Black Citizenship in the midst of the ongoing implementation of the 2016 peace accords. On one end, some initiatives are occupying the spaces opened up by the multicultural state in the context of the negotiations. In doing this, activists continue to demand the inclusion of various forms of racial and ethnic redress into national (and color-blind) visions of peace. On the other end, black activists are furthering expansive definitions of peace, which do not understand it as an end to armed conflict, but as anti-genocide. Leaning on the work of Afro-pessimists and black optimists alike, the author proposes the notion of black peace as anti-genocide. Despite their differences, Afro-Colombians' strategies to forge peace within, outside, and against the state constitute a multi-pronged effort to pursue Black Citizenship.
This epilogue is a brief reflection on the new conjuncture that is unfolding after the 2022 electoral triumph of the first left-wing president and vice president in Colombian history. Focusing specifically on Francia Márquez and her politics of vivir sabroso, the author weighs both the promise of living without fear and the challenges of reclaiming the national project from within.