Society for Cultural Anthropology
Oral Presentation Session
Other places and cultures have long been the fodder of anthropological inquiry, generating important disciplinary debates on positionality and the ethics of research. But we don’t often engage in the same practice of critical self-reflection when the subjects of our research are presumed to belong to dominant groups, or groups with whom moral common ground is harder to establish. How might an ethnographic encounter of this sort serve to reshape our anthropological imaginations about the Other and the operations of power?
In Latin America, rights based idioms of belonging tether race to place not only for Indigenous peoples, but also for landless mestizo peasants. This is true in Honduras where state officials have harnessed the suffering of peasant groups to drum up empathy for an imagined mestizo national subject whose placeness is threatened by the territorial claims of coastal Black communities. In the same instance, mestizos are positioned as victims of land tenure regimes that privilege Indigenous peoples and, from the perspective of Indigenous and Black land activists, as settlers who drive processes of racialized dispossession along the coast. In this paper, I interrogate the larger processes that render inscrutable the shared structural positions of differently racialized populations in Honduras. I seek to complicate the presumed antagonism between mestizo settlers and Indigenous peoples through an ethnographic reflection on the condition of landlessness and its articulation with race.