For Land and Liberty is a comparative study of the history and contemporary circumstances concerning Brazil’s quilombos (African-descent rural communities) and their inhabitants, the quilombolas. The book examines the disposition of quilombola claims to land as a site of contestation over citizenship and its meanings for Afro-descendants, as well as their connections to the broader fight against racism.
Contrary to the narrative that quilombola identity is a recent invention, constructed for the purpose of qualifying for opportunities made possible by the 1988 law, Bowen argues that quilombola claims are historically and locally rooted. She examines the ways in which state actors have colluded with large landholders and modernization schemes to appropriate quilombo land, and further argues that, even when granted land titles, quilombolas face challenges issuing from systemic racism. By analyzing the quilombo movement and local initiatives to protect land rights, traditional practices, and food sovereignty, Bowen offers fresh perspectives on the resurgence of movements, mobilization, and resistance in twenty-first century Brazil.
Dr. Merle L. Bowen, Associate Professor of African American Studies, has just released her most recent book entitled, For Land and Liberty: Black Struggles in Rural Brazil (Cambridge University Press, April 2021). The newest volume of the Cambridge Studies on the African Diaspora series, the book “demonstrates the dispossession of rural black communities by powerful rural and state interests since the time of slavery, and compellingly argues that land rights are a necessary form of reparations for past injustices, and to achieve justice today. Deeply researched and timely, this work illuminates the unfinished struggle for liberation in Brazil and the African diaspora.”
Dr. Bowen’s first book, The State against the Peasantry: Rural Struggles in Colonial and Postcolonial Mozambique (University of Virginia Press 2000) centered on the relationship between small-scale agrarian producers and FRELIMO, the liberation movement that led the country to independence from Portuguese colonialism.
More information on For Land and Liberty can be found here:
For Land and Liberty: Black Struggles in Rural Brazil