Racialization and Racism

The rhythms of “acostumbrarse”: Noticing quiet hydro-politics in Colombia’s Caribbean coast

In Colombia’s Caribbean region, where Black Diaspora agrarian spaces have been overtaken by oil palm plantations, access to safe drinking water has become increasingly difficult. Leticia is a water spring located in this historical afro descendant territory. Leticia’s near exhaustion in 2015 as a consequence of oil palm encroachment caused little public outrage even though nearby communities have depended on its waters for decades. Some residents explained their response to Leticia’s fate as acostumbrarse or “getting used to” these forms of harm. While such responses are often discounted as expressions of “giving up,” we argue that acostumbrarse to Leticia’s precarity expresses self-affirmation that overflows liberal notions of resistance. In conversation with Black and Caribbean Studies intellect and poetics, we first problematize how dominant ways of writing about black harm not only reproduce anti-black violence but also neglect the desires of quiet sovereignty in the experience of harm. Second, we re-story Leticia’s sociality as immanent and acostumbrarse as a collective politics of perseverance that ebbs and flows in this hydro-sociality. Our goal is to open space for noticing and storying quiet responses such as acostumbrarse as an opaque politics of perseverance, forming and reforming through recurring and punctuated experiences of both life and death, harm and collective self-affirmation.

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Volume 40 Issue 5

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