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Culture and Human Rights in Colombia: Negotiating Indigenous Law

Final Report Summary - CULTURE AND RIGHTS (Culture and Human Rights in Colombia: Negotiating Indigenous Law)

Within the fellowship project 'Culture and human rights in Colombia: negotiating indigenous law', the fellow explored the cultural stakes of legal pluralism in Colombia. She has conducted ethnographic research in Colombia to document both the many transformations that the constitutional recognition of indigenous law has brought about in indigenous communities and the new forms of political subjectivity it has brought about. The research focused in particular on the vernacularisation of human rights that have emerged both through contact between indigenous peoples and the state and in response to internal pressure from indigenous societies, as indigenous individuals have increasingly called upon state courts to uphold rights purportedly violated by local decisions. These actions affect the way in which indigenous leaders are viewed locally, both as representatives of indigenous and state cultures and as authors of the law. Specifically, the fellow's study focused on indigenous leaders and their organisations among Piajo and Nasa communities. The research examined how these indigenous leaders, as intermediary figures, creatively interact with local, national, and international norms, customs, and laws, reshaping social relations. The research concluded that vernacularisation necessarily entails a process of negotiation, in which the social importance of legal rights is debated within communities. In this context, new notions of justice, community and self-identification are generated.

This piece of research should also be of interest for indigenous communities, as it offers them a contribution to their own ongoing reflexive processes and self-conscious reflection on these transformations.