(Un)settling dispossession : neoliberal development, gender violence, and indigenous struggles for land in Guyana

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2017-05

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(Un)settling Dispossession: Neoliberal Development, Gender Violence, and Indigenous Struggles for Land in Guyana examines how and why conditions of indigenous land dispossession and gendered racial violence against indigenous women persist, even accelerate, in a context where indigenous rights are ostensibly upheld by the state. Based on eighteen months of collaborative ethnographic fieldwork, this project maps the conditions structuring indigenous political subjectivities through an analysis of three distinct, yet related topics: neoliberal state development and recognition, gender and sexual violence, and the quotidian lived experience of indigenous territorial struggles. Grounded in a feminist political economic perspective, this project brings into conversation critical feminist geography and anthropological perspectives on space, territory, and the body with critical scholarship on race, indigeneity, and recognition. This study posits that the Guyanese state retains territorial authority, even as it recognizes indigenous collective land rights, through social and spatial orders that operate through neoliberal logics, or a (re)territorialization of indigenous lands. As such, territorial rights granted by the state have become the essential counterpart or accessory of authorized dispossession as the state’s conferral of rights paradoxically reinforces patriarchy (and attendant violence) against and within indigenous communities, placing indigenous peoples within a space of corporeal-spatial precarity. These processes operate in tandem with the racial-sexual representation of the indigenous female ‘body,’ which manifest in the gendered violence to which they are subjected. The violence indigenous women experience, as a racial and gendered process of dispossession, must be understood in relation to the pervasive gender violence Creole (descendants of enslaved Africans and East-Indian indentured servants) women experience, in particular the black female body. Broadly, this project maps intersecting colonial legacies of dispossession—indigenous displacement, slavery, and indentureship—which structure the complex relations between indigenous and majority Creole descendants and the state. While indigenous mobilizing efforts must negotiate assertions of state sovereignty, as well as Creole claims of belonging, these contentions also point to the space(s) in which indigenous political subjectivities challenge the nation-building project. Ultimately, this study attends to the mundane spaces of indigenous struggles for land, the mutually constitutive processes of land and body dispossession, and how the paradoxical space to which indigenous peoples are relegated, as hypervisible and invisible, also constitutes the ground upon which indigenous futures are imagined and constructed.

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