Social & Cultural Geography Plenary: The Making of Residential Tourism Space: Land, Servitude and Embodied Histories in Panama (Sharlene Mollett)

Type: Panel
Sponsor Groups: Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group
Poster #:
Day: 4/7/2019
Start / End Time: 2:00 PM / 3:40 PM
Room: Diplomat Room, Omni, West
Organizers: Mary Gilmartin
Chairs: David Bissell


The journal Social & Cultural Geography celebrates its 20th year in print in 2019. This talk by Sharlene Mollett, with a wide range of discussants, showcases cutting-edge work in social & cultural geography. It is part of a year-long series of events, organised by the journal editors, to reflect on the current state, past contributions and future directions of social and cultural geography.

Sharlene will talk on 'The Making of Residential Tourism Space: Land, Servitude and Embodied Histories in Panama'. As she writes:
In this address, I examine the ways in which settler colonial logics shape residential tourism development on the Atlantic Coast of Panama. With a focus on Bocas del Toro archipelago, I entangle feminist political ecological assertions that struggles over nature are embodied struggles, with intersectional and relational understandings of land and body, which I draw from a fusion of postcolonial, decolonial and black feminist thought. Through this lens, I seek to illustrate three key findings. First, settler colonial place making in Bocas is partially articulated in the legal geographies of the Panamanian state’s tourism-as-development strategy, a process that invites foreign land ownership. Second, while it is true that settler colonial logics of elimination have gendered implications for Ngobe women, I focus on Afro-Panamanian women, and illustrate through ethnographic testimony the ways in which settler logics of elimination manifest in the naturalization of Afro-Panamanian women as “maids”. Such imaginative and material geographies reflect racial-sexual-gendered histories that take for granted black female servitude and landlessness on the Atlantic coast. Lastly, I will show, notwithstanding the coast’s violent past (and present) such histories offer hope for a more autonomous future. Thus, I argue that Afro-Panamanian women’s participation in Bocas’ tourism enclave--a project that seeks to erase indigenous and black relations to coastal lands and foster their subjection to foreign nationals--is simultaneously a demand to their right to remain on the coast where settlers, once again, “come to stay”.


Type Details Minutes
Introduction David Bissell University of Melbourne 10
Panelist Sharlene Mollett University of Toronto 40
Discussant Derek Alderman University of Tennessee 10
Discussant Diana Ojeda Universidad Javeriana 10
Discussant Joseph Bryan Department of Geography, University of Colorado, Boulder 10
Discussant Soren Larsen University of Missouri 10

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