The inauspicious monster inside the sacred fortress : colonial multiculturalism and indigenous politics in Colombia’s Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta




Ward, Ricardo Tane

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This dissertation is about development and multiculturalism in Colombia. My ethnographic work focuses on the Iku, an indigenous pueblo in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountains in Northern Colombia (SNSM), as they work to resist development projects and wrestle with political changes brought on by multiculturalism. The Iku have traditionally resisted the state, capitalism and development. The multicultural paradigm for addressing development in indigenous territory in Colombia has been adapted from international frameworks for “special indigenous rights”. Colombia has served as a model multicultural nation, because of its progressive constitution and its practice of implementing Free, Prior and Informed Consultations about development projects for indigenous people. These changes have had profound effects on the governance of indigenous peoples, and have garnered internal cultural responses from the Iku. The reaction to development and multicultural politics has been dissonant from the state at an ontological level – that is at the basic level of understanding reality. Multiculturalism is tied to liberal state governance and industrial capitalist economies, rooted ontologically in colonial-modernity. The Iku have a relational ontology tied to their culture-territory. This dissertation does not elaborate a discursive Iku critique of capitalism or mystify readers with a re-telling of their cultural mythology. Instead, I explore ontological politics as both colonizing, in the form of extractive industries’ disregard for the natural world, and resistant, in the Iku practices of reproducing their culture-territory. This dissertation explores this political space with an eye towards building decolonial politics that respond to the challenges faced by the Iku and the multicultural state.



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