Accepted Paper:

Identity versus palm oil: the process of quilombolization in Alto Acará in Brazil  


Nele Odeur (CEDLA - University of Amsterdam)

Paper Short Abstract:

Re-invention of traditional identity is used by quilombola communities in Alto Acará in Brazil to protect their land against land grabbing by expanding palm oil companies. This process, coined "quilombolization" by the author, will be analysed using the framework of institutional bricolage.

Paper long abstract:

The paper analyses a land property conflict between five traditional quilombola (Afro-Brazilian slave) communities, large landowners and palm oil companies in Alto Acará in Brazil, using the theoretical framework of institutional bricolage.The quilombola communities have submitted an official request to demarcate the area under scrutiny as inalienable communal ancestral territory, as enabled by the Constitution of 1988. The demarcation of ancestral territory is usually considered as a way to protect the social organization and cultural traits of traditional communities and to repay ancient social debts to badly treated citizens. The author states, however, that the particular request of the quilombola communities in Alto Acará appears to be a strategy to protect their land against the aggressive expansion of the palm oil industry in the region, which is being promoted by a national programme stimulating the production of biodiesel.The local quilombola history and identity, which meaning had largely faded away in the course of time, were rescued, re-invented and eventually used to increase the bargaining power of the local population in the existing land property conflict. This process, which is coined "quilombolization" by the author, can be considered as one of the few strategies available to poor communities to protect their land against large-scale land grabbing.

Panel P49
Displaying recent research on Latin America and the Caribbean conducted by Nalacs members