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Between the Guerrillas and the State The Cocalero Movement, Citizenship, and Identity in the Colombian Amazon by Maria Clemencia Ramirez

Between the Guerrillas and the State The Cocalero Movement, Citizenship, and Identity in the Colombian Amazon


Between the Guerrillas and the State The Cocalero Movement, Citizenship, and Identity in the Colombian Amazon by Maria Clemencia Ramirez

Responding to pressure from the United States, the Colombian government in 1996 intensified aerial fumigation of coca plantations in the western Amazon region. This crackdown on illicit drug cultivation sparked an uprising among the region's cocaleros, small-scale coca producers and harvest workers. More than 200,000 campesinos marched that summer to protest the heightened threat to their livelihoods. Between the Guerrillas and the State is an ethnographic analysis of the cocalero social movement that emerged from the uprising. Maria Clemencia Ramirez focuses on how the movement unfolded in the department (state) of Putumayo, which has long been subject to the de facto rule of guerrilla and paramilitary armies. The national government portrayed the area as uncivilized and disorderly and refused to see the coca growers as anything but criminals. Ramirez chronicles how the cocaleros demanded that the state recognize campesinos as citizens, provide basic services, and help them to transition from coca growing to legal and sustainable livelihoods.


In Between the Guerrillas and the State, Maria Clemencia Ramirez has written an excellent analytical description of the cocalero movement in the Putumayo province in the Colombian Amazon during the 1990s. -- Carmenza Gallo * Contemporary Sociology * Between the Guerrillas and the State constitutes an insightful reminder that the 'political world
is rich with local and cultural meanings that are usually ignored in debates about public policy.

-- Ingrid Bolivar * EIAL * Between the Guerrillas and the State is...a rich and much-needed addition to our understanding of contemporary Colombia. -- Robert Karl * Hispanic American Historical Review * It is refreshing to read accounts of grassroots resistance to the bullying of national governments that regard citizens as obstacles.... This compelling book makes a valuable contribution to the study of social movements while providing a nuanced understanding of what is really at stake when politicians in countries such as Colombia uncritically accept the narratives and agenda mouthed incessantly by their northern paymasters. * The Latin American Review of Books * Brimming over with ethnographic and historical insights, this outstanding book speaks to central questions about social movements, violence, democratization, and the implementation of neoliberal policies in extremely poor regions. Maria Clemencia Ramirez looks at a grassroots social movement brought about by unlikely actors, rural farmers known as cocaleros, who grow and process coca (the main ingredient in cocaine) in order to survive. The cocaleros clamored for attention from a nearly absent state, which dismissed them, demonizing them as criminals. The irony is unmistakable, for the cocaleros

-making deployed rhetorics coming straight out of neoliberal discourses that speak of citizen responsibility, participatory democracy, and self-actualization. Between the Guerrillas and the State is a brilliant study of neocolonialism at work in a very violent part of southern Colombia. -Jean E. Jackson, co-editor of Indigenous Movements, Self-Representation, and the State in Latin America A meticulous account of how coca growing plays out in the labyrinth of southern Colombia, this book, by a seasoned Colombian anthropologist, illuminates the plight of the peasant no less than the double-talk promulgated by the unwinnable War on Drugs. -Michael Taussig, Class of 1933 Professor, Columbia University Between the Guerrillas and the State is a must-read for those hoping to make sense of the Colombian quagmire. One of that country's most prominent anthropologists, Maria Clemencia Ramirez, has a keen ethnographic sensibility and a deep knowledge of the social dynamics of the Colombian Amazon. Her book opens a window onto the complexities of the Colombian conflict in a way that few English-language publications have. -Joanne Rappaport, author of Intercultural Utopias: Public Intellectuals, Cultural Experimentation, and Ethnic Pluralism in Colombia

About the Author

Maria Clemencia Ramirez is a Senior Research Associate and a former Director (2005-2007) of the Colombian Institute of Anthropology and History in Bogota.

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Book Info

Publication date

1st July 2011


Maria Clemencia Ramirez

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Duke University Press


328 pages


Revolutions, uprisings, rebellions

Irregular or guerrilla forces & warfare



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