Panel 4: Ethnic territories and the state

Clea Pinneau, Sorbonne University, (chair)

Abstract: Establishing an alternative social order to the Turkish State: the Kurdish movement in Mersin.

This paper aims to understand how an ethno-political party tried to establish an alternative social order to the State in a city where its ethnic group is a minority. This case study takes place in the city of Mersin in western Turkey, where a municipality was ruled by the pro- Kurdish party for two decades (until 31 March 2019 municipal elections). In 1999, for the first time, the pro-Kurdish party won the municipal elections in an area located outside of Kurdistan. Six years later, in 2005, Abdullah Öcalan, the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK)'s leader, disseminated his «democratic confederalism» theoritical model, directly implemented in municipalities led by the pro-Kurdish party. Mersin is the only location where the model was experimented outside of Kurdish territories, in direct contact with other ethnic groups (such as Turkmens and Arabic Alevis), and in a context that allowed the participation of political opponents (such as the extreme-far right party). Moreover, it had to face a double constraint both from the PKK and the State to develop its politics on the field. How does the pro-Kurdish party faced the challenge of producing a competing social order in a city located outside of the Kurdish regions of Turkey? First, the presentation will focus on the characteristics of «democratic confederalism» as an alternative social order. It will look at the theory and how it has been partially implemented in the pro-Kurdish municipality. Then, the analysis will look into the effects of those politics on the local political scene as a way for the pro-Kurdish party to adapt its governance in an environment where it is a minority. Finally, through an explanation of the double constraints faced by pro-Kurdish municipal officials, we will demonstrate the limits of the establishment of an alternative social order to the State.

Inge Merete Hougaard, University of Copenhagen,

Abstract: Recognition without rights? Ethnic recognition and ex-situ titling of collective territories to Afro-descendants in the Cauca Valley, Colombia

Ethnic recognition and collective titling have since the second half of the 20th century gained prominence as a way to compensate for historical injustices and counter the destructive effects of capitalist development. Yet, ethnic recognition and collective titling has been criticised for essentialising and spatially tying identities, and, in combination with neoliberal policies, protecting capital from unruly resistance or incorporating areas formerly not accessible to capital, through form of neoliberal multiculturalism. This paper explores these critiques by examining how multiculturalism and ethnic collective titling have been implemented for Afro-descendant groups in Colombia. It follows the case of an Afro-descendant village, which seek to obtain ethnic recognition to manage uncertainties of life in an agro-industrial margin, and gain resource control over their manual extraction activities in the event of a competing external claimant. While ethnic recognition and collective titling offer a way to securing resource rights, the villagers struggle to articulate their ethnic difference and fit into the ‘ethnic slot’ set out in the ambiguous and contradictory legislation. As the legal-institutional landscape changes, I question whether the mechanism of ex-situ collective titling can yield the promised protection and territorial control: protection against competing resource claims, and granting the villagers priority right to extraction. Since rights continue to be spatially tied, I argue, ethnic recognition and collective titling neither yield protection nor resource control to the villagers. Rather, the mechanism of ex-situ titling liberates resources for capitalist appropriation, and indirectly allows political-economic interests to converge in a form of dispossession. In this way, I claim, neoliberal multiculturalism does not effectively address the historical injustices that continue to shape Colombian society today.

Penelope Anthias, University of Copenhagen,

Abstract: The elusive promise of territory: multicultural cartographies vs land-titling legacies in Bolivia

The recent proliferation of indigenous land titling processes has generated debates on the possibilities and limits of indigenous engagements with modern forms of cartography, territory, and property. In the context of these discussions, territory and property are often treated as coherent and mutually supportive techniques of modern rule. For policy makers and land rights activists, property is seen as an unproblematic means of legalising indigenous territorial claims, while critical accounts highlight how both property and territory diverge from indigenous relational ontologies of space. This paper contributes to these debates by examining an under-examined paradox of indigenous land claims processes: the disjuncture between the cartographic promise of indigenous territories and the legal-material outcomes of propertisation. I unpack this by considering the multicultural concept of “territorially-bounded indigeneity” in conjunction with the “racial regimes of ownership” (Bhandar, 2018) that characterise postcolonial property regimes. I then examine how this tension has played out in Native Community Land claims in South-eastern Bolivia. I argue that the cartographic representation of Native Community Lands as bounded, contiguous spaces has been undermined by the fragmentary effects of propertisation, which has privileged settler land claims and perpetuated broader processes of territorial enclosure. In the final section of the paper, I consider how the “elusive promise of territory” continues to haunt territorial and resource politics in Bolivia two decades after the creation of Native Community Lands.

Stine Krøijer, University of Copenhagen,