“Territorial Tourists: Birders as Unwitting Agents in Colombia’s Re-territorialization”

Authors: Travis Bott*, UCLA
Topics: Political Geography, Latin America, Tourism Geography
Keywords: Colombia, FARC, Territory, Territorialization
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/3/2019
Start / End Time: 2:35 PM / 4:15 PM
Room: Jefferson, Marriott, Mezzanine Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This exploratory paper probes the role of birders and birding tourists as agents of re-territorialization in post-conflict Colombia. In November 2016, the signing of the peace accord between the Colombian government and the FARC (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias Colombianas) ended what was the longest-running civil conflict in the western hemisphere. At their greatest extent the FARC occupied an area roughly the size of Switzerland, and their literal coming out of the hills and laying down their weapons marked the beginning of the state’s “territorial re-integration project” (Acuerdo de Paz: 4), and the dramatic re-inscription of Colombian spaces. However, an unlikely group has been in the initial wave of this territorial re-taking: birders. Due to Colombia’s position as a hotbed of avian biodiversity, the relative inaccessibility to large swathes of its territory, and the unique drive among recreational birders to add species to their personal lists, birders have been aggressive first-responders to this territorial re-opening. While questions of re-territorialization often conjure Weberian images of the state—those of ‘monopoly’ and ‘force’—the aim of this project is to explore the line between the state as the fundamental actor in re-territorialization and the non-state actors that do the work of territorialization for the state. It does so by focusing on birders as agents of less forceful—and often less visible—elements of state articulation: territorial legibility and the ‘prosaic geographies of stateness’ (Painter 2006).

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