Aquatic mobilisation

The Geographies of Social Movements: Afro-Colombian Mobilization and the Aquatic Space
Ulrich Oslender
2016, Duke University Press
290 pages, plates, paperback

PLACES shape the character and identity of social movements, especially at a highly localised level, helping to account for the forms of social mobilisation that they employ. Ulrich Oslender examines the activism of black communities in the lowland rainforest of Colombia’s Pacific Coast region to demonstrate how their mobilisation can best be understood by how local geography influences the ways they organise. He draws upon extensive ethnographic fieldwork in and around the town of Guapi and the work of local community councils there to explore activism related to newly granted ethnic and land rights. Local relationships are inextricably entangled with the area’s rivers, streams, swamps, rain and tides, together making for an “aquatic space” that shapes the entire political process. This is important, for it qualifies the emphasis that can be placed on other mobilising factors such as social class – and ethnicity itself. Oslender argues that social mobilisation among these Pacific Coast black communities is best understood as emerging out of their place-based identity and the resulting “environmental imaginary”. – EC