Debates in Latin American Social Theory

Asynchronous Screening and Assignment on Quilombo and Maroon Logics

Asynchronous Assignment


1. Watch the film Quilombo (Carlos Diegues, 1984) through Baruch’s Library or Amazon .

2. Read the essay “Maroon Logics as Flight from the Euromodern” by Pedro Lebrón Ortiz.

3. Pick ONE of the following prompts and respond in the comment section down below. The deadline is 3/2 before the class. 200-word minimum.


Pedro Lebrón Ortiz affirms that “the enslaved, whose humanity was denied by slavery, did not simply deny slavery, but rather first affirmed his/her humanity and by means of that affirmation denied the institution that denied his/her humanity.” (Page 6)

In which ways does the film Quilombo shows maroons’ practices as an affirmation of their humanity? Refer to specific scenes, songs, choreographies, or ideas presented by the film.


Lebrón Ortiz defines marronage as “a distinct manner of embodying freedom inasmuch as it was a struggle for life and an affirmation of a way of life within the material limits of the sociopolitical context of the enslaved. Enslaved subjects of African descent collaborated and mixed in with indigenous subjects in solidarity, which resulted in the development of new practices and institutions. This combining of cultural elements was caused by the sociopolitical context in which both groups, with all their complexity and diversity, faced annihilation.” (Page 3)

How does the film Quilombo illustrate this definition? Refer to specific scenes, songs, choreographies, or ideas presented by the film.


“Freedom can be conceived of as an existential state of Being in which one rejects the imposition of foreign archetypes by means of an affirmation of one’s own world. Marronage is flight from Euromodernity itself. Maroon logics … break down notions of individualism, the foundational fallacy of Euromodernity, in the sense that maroon logics are guided by the primacy of the community for the sake of survival.” (Page 10-11)

Discuss how in Quilombo the community becomes a central character that works towards a free space separated from the colonial government. Refer to specific scenes, songs, choreographies, or ideas presented by the film.


Respectfully interact with ONE of your classmates’ responses. Do you agree with their arguments and interpretations? Do you disagree? What other observations about Quilombo and/or “Maroon Logics as Flight from the Euromodern” do you want to bring into the discussion?

Afro-Latin American Geographies of In-betweenness- Ana Laura Zavala Guillén

Entry Questions

What historical and cultural perspectives from the video stood out?

The people of San Basilio de Palenque understand their history as part of an ongoing global struggle. Why?

San Basilio de Palenque as a case study of syncretism, geographical and political negotiation

“Essentialized visions of Maroon communities have been challenged by describing them as complex worlds with fluid interests and solidarities, as well as collaborations with colonialists and slaveholders, and reproduction of practices of slavery with newcomers to the communities. In San Basilio de Palenque’s case, there exist historical and linguistic approaches critical of its essentialized vision as an Africa in Colombia. These approaches envisage the community as influenced by elements other than the African. Maglia and Moñino have defined the community and its local palenquero language as ‘creole products’ that hybridized Spanish with languages from Angola, Congo, and other Central-West African places. This assertion aligns with the historians’ notion of Maroon communities as syncretic spaces. For example, other subaltern subjects such as fugitive indigenous people and fugitive women of mixed African, European, and indigenous backgrounds also joined the palenque, whose presence in this territory contributed to its subversive and diverse aspect.” (Page 16)

The Goals of the research and the article

Historian and geographer Ana Laura Zavala Guillen in her article challenges idealized views on cimarronaje. She questions arguments that understand palenques as fully “independent Black territories in defiance of the colonial regime.” She explains that these spaces were understood “as detached portions from Africa that resisted Whiteness in the so-called new world in colonial times.”

For Zavala Guillen palenques or maroon communities demonstrated that another life was possible for Africans and their descendants beyond being conquered and enslaved however they survived by navigating in-between different colonial forms of producing territory that simultaneously implied opposition and co-optation. (Page 13)

Class Presentation (s)

Cruz,Valerie L



Territory: an appropriated space for achieving political purposes. Such navigation recalls notions that embrace opposition and fissure between disparate elements without suppressing or reconciling them. (Page 16)

Ch’ixi: is a colour, an entity, and a place. As a colour, from afar, ch’ixi looks grey, but in proximity, it is a juxtaposition of black and white spots that do not mix. Silvia Rivera Cusicanqui uses these analogies to explain the juxtaposition of the indigenous and the Spanish elements. The mestizo identity, is a place of uncertainty, friction, and constraint. No pacification or unity is possible. Both sides exist precisely because of their unsolvable and hierarchical (one side can be more prevalent than the other) opposition born out of the colonial situation. (Page 16)

Borderlands: In Gloria Anzaldúa’s work, the borderland is the world of the chicana/mestiza that grows where the United States and Mexico meet. To live in the borderland is to be on both sides of the border at the same time as a mestiza. The borderland concept allows a permanent transgression that is continually performed without getting lost in the transit/navigation between these two antagonist worlds. (Pages 16-17)

Group Discussions:

Afro-Latin American Geographies of In-betweenness- A. L. Zavala Guillen

How do the “Ch’ixi” and “Borderlands” theories help us understand the following statements?

.”The Maroon territory was a clandestine territory aligned formally and strategically with the Catholic faith.” (Page 18)

. “Apart from creating strategic alliances and offering subjection in exchange for freedom and lands, there were other reasons for the palenque’s survival” (Page 19)

.palenques “jeopardised slavery, and this was a reason why the colonial regime negotiated its incorporation in the system as an isolated poblazion.” (Page 20)

Asynchronous Assignment on Afro-Latin American Geographies of In-betweenness

Asynchronous Assignment


1. Read the essay “Afro-Latin American Geographies of In-betweenness: Colonial Marronage in Colombia” by Ana Laura Zavala Guillen. Pay special attention to pages 18-22.

2. Pick ONE of the following prompts and respond in the comment section down below. The deadline is 2/23 before the class. 200-word minimum.


Discuss the negotiations and complex alliances between maroon communities in Colombia and the Catholic Church.


Why does the author, Zavala Guillen argue that the conversion (co-optation) of Palenques from clandestine spaces to a poblazion (a town) was beneficial to some formerly enslaved people but also to the Spanish colonial authorities? How does the incorporation of palenques by colonial powers obstructed Black mobilization?


What elements of defiance continued after the transition from Palenques to towns according to the author Zavala Guillen?


Respectfully interact with ONE of your classmates’ responses. Do you agree with their arguments and interpretations? Do you disagree? What other observations about “Afro-Latin American Geographies of In-betweenness” do you want to bring into the discussion?

We Are Owed- Ariana Brown

Entry Question

Ariana Brown starts her section on Gaspar Yanga by quoting Afro-Canadian poet, essayist, and documentarian Dionne Brand:

“Black Experience in any modern city or town in the Americas is a haunting. One enters a room and history follows; one enters a room and history precedes. History is already seated in the chair in the empty room when one arrives. Where one stands in a society seems always related to this experience.”

What do you understand by this quote? and How it helps to illuminate Ariana Brown’s intentions with this section?


Published in 2021, We Are Owed, is the debut poetry collection of Ariana Brown. Brown is a Black-Mexican-American poet-performer and educator. Many of the poems in this collection are about the author’s childhood in Texas and a trip to Mexico as an adult. This collection interrogates accepted origin stories of Mexican identity and asks readers to reject U.S., Chicano, and Mexican nationalism and to confront anti-Black erasure and empire-building and discourses. Brown places her experiences of Blackness in conversation with the histories of formerly enslaved Africans in both Texas and Mexico. These figures serve as protective and guiding forces in particular Yanga, a maroon that founded the first Black liberated town of the Americas

Mexicanidad, just like most of the national identities in Latin America, has been defined as a mestizaje (mixed race-ness/ mixed culture) in which the African heritage and blackness are diluted. Through these discourses la hispanidad is centered and indigeneity is seen as a fixed folk culture of the past. Facing this, Brown decides to center instead of the figure of Gaspar Yanga, a maroon, or self-emancipated African. The poet sees Yanga as the true origin of her Afro Mexican American identity. She doesn’t identify with brownness but with blackness.

Minutes 11:00-16:25

Class Presentation (s)

Aucapina,Daysi O



Read the statement and looks for evidence quotes in the poems that would support these claims:

.The poems in this section of We Are Owed establish a conversation with Yanga inserting him into personal memories.

.For Brown, studying abroad in Mexico, her ancestral homeland seems precisely haunting as she needs to interact with being fetishized as a Black woman and anti-blackness in the form of being separated or erased from the historical constructions of Mexicanidad.

.The experiences of maroons, these self-emancipated Africans who flew the colonial status quo and regenerated their culture in a new space resonated with the poet as an Afro-descendant haunted by history. 

.The poet wants to recover Yanga’s body and his gestures as a way to trace an origin.

.Although she understands Yanga as a kindred spirit of sorts, the poet is also critical about the historical figure and questions him about his alliances with the Spanish colonial government and how he compromised the lives and liberty of other maroons. However, she finishes on a hopeful note. 

Asynchronous Assignment on We are Owed (Selection)

Asynchronous Assignment


1. Watch the following video about Gaspar Yanga

2. Read the selected poems from We are Owed by Ariana Brown

3. Pick ONE of the following prompts and respond in the comment section down below. The deadline is 2/16 before the class. 200-word minimum.


Analyze the juxtaposed texts in the poem “Field Notes.” Why do you think the poet intercalates her experiences as a Black Mexican-American in Mexico and the biographical notes on Yanga? How do the experiences of maroons (self-emancipated Africans who flew the colonial status quo) resonate with the poet? Why the poet ends the text by saying that she would look for Yanga everywhere? (Pages 68-70)


By referring to Dionne Brand’s quote at the beginning of the Yanga section (Page 62), discuss the notion of the Black experience as “a haunting” in  Brown’s poems. Refer to specific poems and/or lines.


Elaborate on how the poet humanizes Yanga in various poems and inserts him into personal memories. What do you believe is the intention behind this poetic approach to the historical figure?


Respectfully interact with ONE of your classmates’ responses. Do you agree with their arguments and interpretations? Do you disagree? What other observations about Ariana Brown’s Yanga poems do you want to bring into the discussion?

The Subject of Race (Pages 25-37)- Achille Mbembe

Entry Questions

Dub (Selection 1)- A.P. Gumbs

After watching the video and re-reading the poems by Alexis Pauline Gumbs answer the following questions:

Group 1

.the notion and practice of “witnessing” and the integration  of lives in the poem “they were witnesses”

Group 2

.the methods of colonialism in the poem “what did we learn from the turtles?”

Group 3

In these poems how does Gumbs build a notion of Caribbean history, ecology with a beyond the human?

. What are the central ideas of this writer, poet, thinker, filmmaker, or artist?

Cameroonian philosopher, political theorist, and public intellectual, Achille Mbembe understands “Black reason” as a collection of “voices, pronouncements, discourses, forms of knowledge, commentary, and non-sense, whose object is things or people “of African origin.” Mbembe says that these narratives “provided the justifications for the arithmetic of racial dominations” (27). The appearance of a “racial subject” generated two lines of inquiry: who are they? and who I am? One of them produces an “identity judgment” and the other a “declaration of identity” (28). These ideas circulated “within a vast global network, producing the modern Black imaginary.”

In the first line of inquiry, Black people are conceived as “not really one of us “a foreign body” that is part animal, part object, and somewhat ambiguously human, yet, kinless, out of the law and any type of national subjecthood. Technologies of separation, categorization, and control are developed from these discourses (3o, 31, 33).

In the second line of inquiry, Black people create an archive to reclaim their erased, or neglected history. They “assume their responsibility to the world by creating a foundation for themselves. Writing, performance, and political actions seek to refute and “exorcise the demon of the first narrative and the structure of subjection within it” (28-9)

. Analyze one specific section by your chosen author that best communicates what you identified in the question above.

Exploring the second narrative Mbembe says that:

The invocation of race “born from a feeling of loss, from the idea that the community has suffered a separation, that it is threatened with extermination, and that it must at all costs be rebuilt by reconstituting a thread of continuity beyond time, space, and dislocation.”

A contemporary poem that illustrates this second line of discourse is “Afro Latina” by ELIZABETH ACEVEDO a slam poetry champion and author of the award-winning novels, The Poet X, With the Fire On High, and Clap When You Land.


Open discussion:

Discuss the three distinct views on Afro-Latinidad discussed by Acevedo in her poem and how they relate to Mbembe’s theorization.

. Discuss how the structure of the text or film enhances the conceptual goals of the author or filmmaker.

This chapter is divided into thematic sections that examined:  European discourses on blackness; the history of enslavement and colonialism in Africa and the Americas; the legacies of slavery and racial division in the contemporary world; the different uses of the noun Black. Through all these interconnected parts he argues race is a security device, an ideology, and a technology of governance.  He argues that the “processes of radicalization aim to mark population groups, to fix as precisely as possible the limits within which they can circulate, and to determine as exactly as possible which sites they can occupy… it is all to prevent the dangers  inherent in their circulation and, if possible, to neutralize them in advance through immobilization, incarceration, or deportation.”  (35)

. Can you establish any analogy/relationship between what the author says or what the filmmaker presents and your personal experience? If this is not the case, can you establish any relationship to other works that you have read/heard/seen (books, comics, plays, paintings, photographs, podcasts, music, movies, series, documentaries, etc.)?

As a thinker, Mbembe is in constant dialogue with Frantz Fanon, a Francophone essayist, and psychotherapist who studied the psychology of colonized Afro-descendants. Commenting on Fanon’s work, Mbembe says that:

.race and racism always incite and engender a “double, a substitute, an equivalent, a mask, a simulacrum.” (32)

.”the people to whom race is assigned are not passive. Imprisoned in a silhouette, they are separated from their essence. According to Fanon, one of the reasons for their unhappiness is that their existence consists in inhabiting the separation [with whiteness] as it were their real being, in hating what they are and seeking to be what they are not.” (33)

Asynchronous Assignment on “The Subject of Race” (Pages 10-20)

Asynchronous Assignment


1. Read pages 10-20 from the essay “The Subject of Race” by Achille Mbembe.

3. Pick ONE of the following prompts and respond in the comment section down below. The deadline is 2/09 before the class. 200-word minimum.


Why does Mbembe conceptually tie the concept of race to that of European colonialism? What are his arguments regarding Blackness as something that is produced to allow a “social link of subjection”?


Elaborate on Mbembe’s conception of the Atlantic as an “epicenter of a new concatenation of worlds, the locus (space) of a new planetary consciousness” that emerged between the fourteenth and the nineteenth centuries. How did the Atlantic function as an incubator of a “Black condition”?


Describe the complexity of plantocracies in the Americas. Why does Mbembe define them as systems of unstable exploitation and “hunted by the specter of extermination”?


How the “subjects of race” were legally constructed and thus dehumanized? How slavery was at the core of the western structures of labor and wealth production?


Respectfully interact with ONE of your classmates’ responses. Do you agree with their arguments and interpretations? Do you disagree? What other observations about “The Subject of Race” do you want to bring into the discussion?

Back to Manahatta and Dub

Entry Questions

Were you born in the US or Latin America? Did you migrate to New York? When? From where? Where is your ancestral land? Do you still have contact with it? Do you belong to a diasporic community here in NYC? Where is home for you?

I. Land Acknowledgment: Lenapehoking

Back to Manahatta

.What type of lives does the Lenape lead?

.How would you summarize the history of colonization and displacement of indigenous tribes in what we know now as NYC? (01:18-4:07)

Nick Estes on Manifest Destiny

.What are some of the notions of “home” and the reasoning behind the founding of the Lenape Center? (4:08-6:00)

.What critique the documentary brings forth regarding the buying of Manhattan? How does the concept of land ownership clash with the eco-ideologies of the Lenape? (6:00-8:00)

.What happened to the indigenous groups inhabiting Lanapehoking after the “purchase”? How do contemporary Lenape people protect their native heritage and resist cultural obliteration?  (8:00-12:00)

.What are Lenape people looking forward to? (12:00-13:15)

I. Dub (Selection 1)- Alexis Pauline Gumbs

Dub (Selection 1)- A.P. Gumbs

Discuss the connection between “love”, “need” and ecological balance in the poem “love bugs and starfish”