Marronage as a past and present geography in the Americas

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Chattel slavery was a practice found throughout all of the Americas, lasting for hundreds of years and contributing to the assumed a-spatiality of the populations of African descent present in the Western Hemisphere. While oppressed and seemingly dehumanized by the societies in which they found themselves, Blacks in the Americas found myriad ways to struggle against the imposition of a condition of non-being. One such method was that of marronage. More than simply a reaction to slavery and non-being, marronage was perhaps one of the most creative and emergent methods of life-building found in the modern world. Maroon communities, today, occupy national memories in various manners. This paper explores the history and present-day understanding and existence of maroon communities in two American countries-Brazil and the United States. Whereas the history of maroon communities (known as quilombos) were drawn on by the Black Movement in Brazil in the 1970s and 1980s to make claims for land redistribution in wake of the fall of Brazil’s Military Dictatorship, the spatial figure of the maroon community is largely absent from the national memory and imagination of the United States. Instead, U.S. Black movements are more frequently associated with advocating inclusionary politics or nationalist separatism. By exploring the effects of the idea of the quilombo as a spatial entity in Brazil and acknowledging the history of maroon settlements in the United States, this paper argues that marronage continues, in the present, as a viable spatial praxis and posits a placement of the maroon community at the forefront of present and future discussions of U.S. human rights.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)30-50
Number of pages21
JournalSoutheastern Geographer
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • American South
  • Black Geographies
  • Brazil
  • Marronage


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