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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Aboriginal people in a time of disorder : exploring indigenous interactions with justice in Colombia Gomez-Isaza, Lina Maria


This study of law and aboriginal people in Colombia builds on the premise that law is a form of local knowledge and that state law is reshaped locally, producing outcomes unanticipated by the state itself. Comaroff’s (2001) idea of lawfare, in which the state uses a legal regime to erode local autonomy, reflects the current reality in Colombia, but this notion does not explain this situation entirely. My data come from interviews with aboriginal leaders, experience as a public servant and reading of academic and popular literature. This case study of the Justice and Peace Law of 2005 examines legal processes of the state and aboriginal communities’ public responses to the state and their own internal debates and processes. In the end, I was able to explore the intersection of the state and aboriginal people. Colombia’s unique violence, product of political struggles and economical interests, was supposed to disrupt society has, paradoxically, strengthened community ties. I have drawn three major conclusions to my argument. First, the passage of the JPL has inadvertently strengthened solidarity amongst the Embera – Chamí and other aboriginal groups. Second, this strengthening of solidarity has itself increased indigenous identity; and third, aboriginal justice practices have been transformed and solidified. This too has strengthened community cohesion.

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