Paula Satizábal
Orcid ID:
University of Melbourne , Carlton, Victoria, Australia

Simon PJ Batterbury
Orcid ID:
Lancaster University, Lancaster, UK


Colombia’s Pacific has been imagined as empty in social terms, and yet full in terms of natural resources and biodiversity. These imaginaries have enabled the creation of frontiers of control, which have dispossessed Afro-descendant and indigenous peoples from their ancestral territories. This paper contributes to the understanding of territorialisation in the oceans, focusing in the Gulf of Tribugá. It shows how Afro-descendant communities and non-state actors are required to use the language of resources, rather than socio-cultural attachment, to negotiate state marine territorialisation processes. Driven by their local aquatic epistemologies, these coastal communities are reclaiming authority over the seascape through the creation of a marine protected area. They use state institutional instruments to ensure local access and control, subverting the legal framing of the sea as an open access public good. As such, this protected area represents a place of resistance that ironically subjects communities to disciplinary technologies of conservation.

Keywords: Afro-descendants, Colombia, conservation, geographies of the sea, marine protected areas, territory.