Citizenship, Justice, and Indigeneity
a History of indígena legal practices in Cauca (Colombia), 1880-1938
Manuel Quintín Lame was an indigenous leader who started a movement to recover indigenous communal lands in Tierradentro, Cauca, at the beginning of the 20th century. As an icon and leader of the Cauca’s indigenous movement, he inspired the political programs of many later indigenous groups, and has also received much scholarly attention. However, this focus on Lame’s works and activities, important as they were, has led to the neglect of other possible indígena positions regarding collective ownership and indigeneity that existed at the time. This project starts from the hypothesis that it is only within the context of the polyphony of indígena ideas and positions that we can fully understand the scope and limitations of the Colombian indigenous movement.
My research attempts to understand indigena legal practices during Manuel Quintín Lame’s lifetime (1880-1967) through the contested ideas of citizenship, justice, and indigeneity voiced by those who self-identified as indígenas. I understand the indígena legal practices in Cauca in the late 19th and during the first half of the 20th century as a space of conflict and negotiation between diverse actors (including non-indigenous ones) with varying positions, interests, beliefs, and conceptions of justice and juridical processes. My investigations focus on Lame’s own writings and actions, and on the views of both his detractors and his supporters. The project examines a particularly broad source base, including correspondence, newspaper articles, legislation and other legal documents, and audio and transcribed interviews with indigenous leaders of the 1970s. Furthermore, I look at materials such as handbooks of law and of history, curricula, and anthropological literature to capture the national and international intellectual discourses which informed the debates on citzenship, justice and indigeneity.