Stacie Hecht

Publication Date



The African palm oil industry in Colombia has burgeoned in the last decade, with state-sanctioned promotions and new developmental productions for the expansion of these plantations seeking to provide economic stability for the country. In addition, with the passing of the Free Trade Agreement between the United States and Colombia in 2011, as well as deals with several European countries for the exportation of the product, comes an even greater demand than previously known for the industry. However, the continuation of this endeavor will lead to the devastation of the bio-diverse lands being used for economic gains. Furthermore, palm oil production on the Pacific coast of Colombia comes at the cost of tens of thousands of Afro-Colombians being forcibly displaced from their homes, forcing them to be part of one of the largest groups of internalized refugees in the world. When modernity comes with such grave consequences, what is to be done? In this project, I investigate the forced displacement of Afro-Colombians on the Pacific coast of Colombia due to the encroachment of paramilitaries, who are operating in cooperation with the Colombian government, army, and multinationals in order to expand the production of African palm oil plantations. While conducting ethnographic fieldwork in Bogotá during the summer of 2013, I focused on the following research question: In what ways does the history of racialized discourses against Afro-Colombian communities contribute to human rights violations in Colombia? Academic literature regarding minorities in the country remains ambiguous about currently internalized Afro-Colombian refugees as a result of African palm oil production, and the state remains largely silent (Walsh 2004; 2007).


Development, Afro-Colombians, African Palm Oil, Displacement, Modernity, Racialization, Paramilitaries, Colombia, Environment, Human Rights

Document Type




Degree Name


Level of Degree


Department Name

UNM Department of Anthropology

First Advisor

Field, Les

First Committee Member (Chair)

Brulotte, Ronda

Second Committee Member

Valencia, Cristobal

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Anthropology Commons