Underground multiculturalism: Contentious cultural politics in gold-mining regions in Chocó, Colombia

Jesse Jonkman*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


This article maps the contentious forms of political life that emerge when multicultural rights and non-formal gold extraction coincide. Specifically, it shows how, in the Colombian department of Chocó, Afro-descendant community councils have produced a unique form of mining governance that, while depending for its legitimacy on everyday uses of Afro-Colombian legislation, consists of the organisation, taxation and policing of mining activities that are in tension with official notions of extractive and multicultural law. In exploring such 'underground' cultural politics, the article highlights the limits of state-centric analyses of 'neoliberal multiculturalism' and, accordingly, underscores the instrumental role that governed subjects play in the on-the-ground unfolding of multicultural governance regimes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)25-52
Number of pages28
JournalJournal of Latin American Studies
Issue number1
Early online date5 Nov 2020
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The article is the outcome of a four-year PhD project funded by the Latin American Studies Programme, an inter-university research and education programme financed by the Dutch National Research Funding Organisation (NWO). Earlier versions of the text benefitted from the astute comments of Ton Salman, Marjo de Theije, Kees Koonings and four anonymous JLAS reviewers. Any remaining errors are my own. I wish to express my wholehearted gratitude to the members of the community councils of Caliche, La Peña and Bebará, whose hospitality, guidance and friendship made possible the ethnographic research for this article. During fieldwork, I was privileged to receive institutional support from the Universidad Nacional de Colombia and additional financial support from the NWO-funded GOMIAM project and the Graduate School of Social Sciences of the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © The Author(s), 2020.

Copyright 2021 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Afro-descendants
  • Colombia
  • governance
  • multiculturalism
  • neoliberalism


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