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7 Beyond Citizenship as We Know It Race and Ethnicity in Afro-Colombian Struggles for Citizenship Equality Bettina Ng’weno I could see that she was agitated. She did not want us to be here at her front porch asking her questions about land tenure, black communities, and her aspirations for the future.On hearing I was from Africa,she told me in no uncertain terms that she believed I was there to take her land and the community’s land and that I would bring people from Africa to do so. As I excused myself, letting her know that participation in our survey was completely voluntary, she said, “The indigenous people here tell us to go back to Africa, but we have nothing to do with Africa.” We left without talking to her, feeling the weight of her words. Go back to Africa! What a powerful and terrible comment for those who have never been there.What an effective means of distancing citizens from their citizenship, their nationality, and their land.What histories of restrictions of citizenship and nationality these words frame. Go back to Africa! The depth of discrimination they call up. In these four short words are held slavery and its legacies, the creation of an African diaspora, and finally the exorcism of African culture in the Americas. Go back to Africa! Emplacement and displacement in time and space. This was the first time I had heard the words “we are told to go back to Africa,” but it was definitely not the last during the fourteen months of ethnographic research I conducted in 1999 in the northern part of the department of Cauca in southwestern Colombia. My research focused on claims to ethnic territories by Afro-Colombians in the Andes under the rubric of the 1991 Colombian Constitution as a means of understanding how states are transforming and reorganizing. The words “go back to Africa” are an important indication of the fragile nature of Afro-Colombian efforts to transform what citizenship means through social movements that demand recognition of their presence,difference, rights, and equality. New descriptions of the national makeup as multicultural and visible social  Race and Ethnicity in Afro-Colombian Struggles for Citizenship Equality  157 mobilization around citizenship issues are noticeable features of Latin American countries since the 1990s. Older political mobilizations of class have been expanded through discussions about culture and belonging and are creating new ways of thinking about citizenship vis-à-vis the state. Fiscal and administrative decentralization of governments, transnational ethnic organizing that includes indigenous and black groups, environmental movements, and international legislation such as the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) Convention 1691 enables new recognition of indigenous and Afro-Latin Americans as citizens with special status and rights. In their new constitutions, a good number of Latin American countries, including Colombia and Nicaragua, have declared themselves multicultural or pluriethnic (Van Cott 2000; Ng’weno 2007b). More recently, Bolivia and Ecuador have declared themselves intercultural (Government of Bolivia 2009; Government of Ecuador 2008). “Intercultural” here means negotiating difference in such a way that bridges are built across knowledges, practices, and peoples of equal standing (Walsh 2002; Schroder 2008). These states are using the reorganization of regions as well as new categories of citizens to create governable populations, to demonstrate and acquire legitimacy and authority, to negotiate societal divisions, and to distribute resources : in short, to continue ruling. Communities that mobilized over, fought for, and voted for these changes in their relationship to the state for the most part have conducted their struggles as citizens who were demanding equality and recognition from the state. While state recognition as a practice and concept has become a sought-after goal in itself, for many communities there is a huge range as to what can be and is being recognized by the state. At the most fundamental level, indigenous and Afro-Latin American communities demand that the state recognize their existence .This would include a recognition that the lands they occupy are not empty and thus free for others to occupy. Second, they demand that their presence as indigenous people or Afro-Latin Americans be recognized—that is, a recognition of difference that plays against a national ideology of mestizaje (race and cultural mixing) and sameness. At another level, they are asking for recognition as citizens in spite of this cultural difference—that is, they want recognition as citizens without fitting the cultural description of the Colombian national.They are also demanding that the state...


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