Settler colonialism in Nicaragua: J. L. Mayer, ‘Conceptualizing Settler Colonialism in Nicaragua’, Urban Anthropology and Studies of Cultural Systems and World Economic Development, 49, 3-4, 2021, pp. 195-245


Abstract: A growing body of literature has argued for the reconceptualization of Latin America as a settler colony. Contrary to the self-proclaimed decolonization of Latin American states upon their independence two centuries ago, the settlers who came to Latin America stayed and preserved the structure of settler colonialism to the present day. This article analyzes the case of Nicaragua through the conceptual frame of settler colonialism and examines an apt case study: the Indigenous and Afrodescendant communities of the Rama-Kriol Territory in southeastern Nicaragua, where I have conducted activist ethnographic research since 2014. The ongoing colonization of the Rama-Kriol Territory exhibits not only failures of the state to enforce legal protections of multicultural rights, but also the extension of a colonial logic of dispossession and elimination. The case of the Rama-Kriol Territory demonstrates the entanglements of Nicaraguan settler colonialism with international institutions, development banks, multinational corporations, and settler colonial projects around the world. I conclude that social science researchers should attend to continuing and emergent forms of Indigenous sovereignty in Nicaragua. Amid the fading backdrop of liberal multiculturalism in Latin America, these assertions of sovereignty pose a political horizon of decolonization and an end to settler violence, dispossession, and domination.

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