With few exceptions, scholars have explained the violent history of Colombian regions such as Urabá with arguments about the “weakness” or “absence” of the state. Wedged into the northwest corner of the country, the gulf region of Urabá has always been positioned by Colombia’s dominant geopolitical imaginaries as a kind of dystopian Eden—a stateless and ungoverned place of exuberant natural wealth. Claims of statelessness, however, should only be taken so far; otherwise, they risk glossing over the persistence of governmental structures and the way in which “non-state” or even “anti-state” armed groups can in many ways be perversely compatible with state-led projects of accumulation and rule.
With this note of caution in mind, the central question of this book is: How has state formation developed in a region where relations of land, labor, and capital have been violently contested and in which the government has never been the sole nor the most powerful source of political authority? I argue that the long-standing problem facing Urabá is not so much an absence of the state, but how the region’s economies of violence have caused struggles over the state to become territorialized.
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This article shows the grassroots development apparatus—its discourses of political participation, environmental conservation, and ethnic empowerment—became a conduit for paramilitary-backed state formation and land-grabbing in northwest Colombia.
A brief summary of some political and conceptual flashpoints that provide a compelling meta-analytical window onto already emergent aspects of the political conjuncture currently unfolding in geography and beyond.
This article shows how state formation in northwest Colombia was produced out of the convergence of paramilitary strategies, counterinsurgency, and government reforms aimed at territorial restructuring through decentralization.