Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor's Name

Dr. Víctor Uribe-Urán

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Dr. Bianca Premo

Second Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Third Advisor's Name

Dr. Jenna Gibbs

Third Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Fourth Advisor's Name

Dr. Dennis Wiedman

Fourth Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Fifth Advisor's Name

Dr. Nancy Appelbaum

Fifth Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member


Land Titles, Indigenous Litigants, Privatization of Indigenous Lands, Colombian Indigenous Resguardos.

Date of Defense



Pressures for the privatization of indigenous lands accompanied the making of nation-states in post-colonial Latin America and boosted the natives' quest for colonial legal documents suitable to prove their rights over indigenous communal landholdings (known in Colombia as "resguardos"). This dissertation compares the experiences of two communities - San Lorenzo and Cañamomo-Lomaprieta - engaging with the law and producing legal and historical evidence to respond to the privatization of their resguardos. These communities inhabit the municipalities of Riosucio and Supía (Caldas) in the Western Colombian Andes. While the study explores the genesis of San Lorenzo's and Cañamomo-Lomaprieta's communities and territories during the colonial era, its main focus is "the privatization era" that spanned from the 1870s to the 1940s.

Blending approaches and methods from legal history, social history, and ethnohistory, this dissertation discusses how Cañamomo-Lomaprieta's and San Lorenzo's different trajectories in litigation during the colonial era impacted their production of resguardo titles in post-colonial times. It also analyses these communities' disparate responses to the 1870s and 1940s campaigns for dismantling resguardos. This study draws on qualitative analysis of a wide collection of archival evidence that includes records of colonial land inspections; court and notarial records; censuses; newspapers; legislation; correspondence; and documentation of the privatization processes from the 1870s to the 1940s.

This study argues that resguardo titles trace indígenas' roots, in particular their connections to their lands and history, and encapsulate long-term processes of resistant adaptation. By engaging in title making and lawsuits, indigenous litigants left archival traces documenting their legal struggles for land and justice, enhancing their descendants’ ability to prove their connection with ancestral territories and forebears. Thus, while playing by the rules of the colonial and post-colonial orders, the production of resguardo titles during the privatization era laid the foundation for today's indigenous legal, political, and moral resistance to dispossession. Finally, this study establishes that San Lorenzo's and Cañamomo-Lomaprieta's different attitudes toward litigation, dissimilar political stances, and their contrasting experiences during the 1870s campaign account for both communities' divergent responses to the last phase of the privatization process.






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