"Cimarronando / Marooning!" Palenquera Women and Fugitive Self-Making in the Colombian Caribbean

Wednesday, November 8, 2023 - 5:00pm to 7:00pm

Cherpak Lounge, Williams Hall

This location is ADA accessible

Throughout the Atlantic world, marrons used tactics of evasion, elusion and escape to refuse the yoke of slavery. The autonomous communities they established in the form of quilombos in Brazil and palenques in Colombia stand as some of the earliest examples of Black sovereignty in the Americas. Today, the descendants of these maroons in San Basilio de Palenque, Colombia struggle against renewed threats of displacement, dispossession, and cultural commodification. How might their legacies of marronage shape the contours of racial formation and Black politicization in the present? Amber M. Henry investigates grassroots activism and agentive forms of self-making amongst Palenquera women in the Colombian Caribbean. Drawing from archival research, documentary film, and over a decade of engaged ethnographic research with Palenquera street vendors in the port city of Cartagena, she explores how the ethos of fugitivity informs the way Palenquero/as forge native notions of Blackness and make their claims legible to the state. She mobilizes the term cimarronando (marooning) in verb form to signal the ongoing processes of racial exclusion within and against which Afro-descendants must contend. Dr. Henry further develops the theory of fugitive self-making to describe the myriad ways in which Palenquera women use tactics of evasion, opacity, and flight to chart alternative futures in a universe preponderantly shaped by slavery’s material and immaterial afterlives.

Amber M. Henry is a cultural anthropologist who specializes in questions of sovereignty, embodiment, and Black women’s activism in Latin America. She earned her PhD in Anthropology and Africana Studies from the University of Pennsylvania, and is currently a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Carter G. Woodson Institute for African American & African Studies at the University of Virginia.

Sponsored by
Penn Comparative Literature
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