Maria Fernanda Escallon

Grant Type

Hunt Postdoctoral Fellowship

Institutional Affiliation

Oregon, U. of

Grant number

Gr. 9878

Approve Date

October 9, 2019

Project Title

Escallon, Maria (Oregon, U. of) "Excluded: Black Cultural Heritage and the Politics of Diversity in Colombia"

“Excluded: Black Cultural Heritage and the Politics of Diversity in Colombia” examines why disparities within Colombian Black groups continue to increase despite the heightened public attention for Afro-descendants and creation of public policies intended to combat ethno-racial inequality. I argue that by deliberately using visibility as a form of inclusion, state-sponsored multicultural policies, in practice, further entrench already existing inequalities and maintain structural discrimination. By examining the consequences of UNESCO’s declaration of San Basilio de Palenque’s Afro-descendant culture as “Intangible Heritage of Humanity,” I show how the implementation of heritage policies end up unintentionally perpetuating the inequalities that multiculturalism was designed to dismantle. However, my book’s purpose is not to repeat the familiar story of policy failure or unmet expectations. Instead, focusing on how different Palenqueros define and manage their cultural heritage, I reveal that heritage’s meaning is far from universal, and is created by, as much as it creates, different political subjects. Rather than advocating for a wholesale rejection of heritage declarations, or discouraging communities from fighting for their rights, this project reinstates attention to the interests that heritage comes to serve. “Excluded” furthers theoretical scholarship on social justice, redistribution, and recognition by focusing not only on the rights that must be granted, but also on the dynamics of power that enable Afro-descendants to successfully exercise those rights.