Cover of Black Autonomy by Jennifer Goett
Black Autonomy
Race, Gender, and Afro-Nicaraguan Activism
Jennifer Goett


240 pages.
from $28.00

Hardcover ISBN: 9780804799560
Paperback ISBN: 9781503600546
Ebook ISBN: 9781503600553

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Decades after the first multicultural reforms were introduced in Latin America, Afrodescendant people from the region are still disproportionately impoverished, underserved, policed, and incarcerated. In Nicaragua, Afrodescendants have mobilized to confront this state of siege through the politics of black autonomy. For women and men grappling with postwar violence, black autonomy has its own cultural meanings as a political aspiration and a way of crafting selfhood and solidarity.

Jennifer Goett's ethnography examines the race and gender politics of activism for autonomous rights in an Afrodescendant. Creole community in Nicaragua. Weaving together fifteen years of research, Black Autonomy follows this community-based movement from its inception in the late 1990s to its realization as an autonomous territory in 2009 and beyond. Goett argues that despite significant gains in multicultural recognition, Afro-Nicaraguan Creoles continue to grapple with the day-to-day violence of capitalist intensification, racialized policing, and drug war militarization in their territories. Activists have responded by adopting a politics of autonomy based on race pride, territoriality, self-determination, and self-defense. Black Autonomy shows how this political radicalism is rooted in African diasporic identification and gendered cultural practices that women and men use to assert control over their bodies, labor, and spaces in an atmosphere of violence.

About the author

Jennifer Goett is Associate Professor of Comparative Cultures and Politics at James Madison College, Michigan State University.

"Jennifer Goett's fine book shows, with vivid ethnography, how Afro-Nicaraguan political mobilization is inspired by the vernacular cultural practices of women and men. Her book provides penetrating insight into the way multiculturalist reforms that give rights to racialized minorities coexist with rapacious and punitive forms of 'development,' by state and private sector interests, operating in transnational and gendered circuits of geopolitics and capital."

—Peter Wade, University of Manchester

"Black Autonomy is a powerfully argued and beautifully written entrée to the intimate social worlds of people struggling for livelihood and autonomy on Nicaragua's Atlantic coast. Taking readers into the inner lives of local residents, Jennifer Goett explores how gender-based solidarity is produced and mobilized to challenge military occupation, counternarcotics policing, and sexual violence. Through feminist activist ethnography, Goett effectively conveys the voices and experiences of local actors while significantly advancing our understanding of what it takes to commit anthropology's resources to local projects of liberation."

—Daniel M. Goldstein, Rutgers University

"Black Autonomy powerfully interrogates the regionally and racially disparate effects of neoliberalism, drug war capitalism, state securitization, and state-sanctioned sexual violence in post-Cold War Nicaragua. Jennifer Goett presents a compelling analysis of the gendered struggle of Afrodescendants, particularly Creoles, for full rights of multicultural citizenship, including territorial autonomy. Goett's feminist activist ethnography is an important contribution to studies of post-conflict Central America and the African diaspora."

—Faye V. Harrison, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

"In a valuable contribution to scholarship on Nicaragua's east coast and the "official multiculturalism" now prevalent throughout Latin America, Jennifer Goett interrogates the meaning of autonomy for the Afro-descendant Creole residents of the community of Monkey Point....Her work demonstrates how critical feminist scholarship on racial violence can root itself in community understandings."

—David Johnson Lee, Hispanic American Historical Review

"Goett's knowledge of local history and politics from the perspectives of Creole actors is fabulously rich and denotes the seriousness of her activist-ethnographic dedication. Her reflexive discussion of her relation to the field and of her ethnographic strategies and experiences provide an excellent entry point into the complex sociocultural, economic, and political situations she elucidates. This is certainly one of the best ethnographies I have had the opportunity to read in a long time."

—Jean Muteba Rahier, Latin American Research Review

"Black Autonomy, written by feminist anthropologist Jennifer Goett, makes an important contribution to the field of Afro-Latin American studies....Very well written, her narrative at various points thrilled me with the vitality and political commitment expressed both in the description of the experiences of the Monkey Point people and in their analyses of inequalities in the global economy."

—Amilcar Araujo Pereira, Latin American Politics and Society