The Work of Recognition
Caribbean Colombia and the Postemancipation Struggle for Citizenship
University of North Carolina Press 2014
In the 1850s, when the majority of the population of Colombia (known then as New Granada) embraced the emancipation of the remaining 17,000 people still enslaved, the lettered elite quickly tied emancipation to emerging ideas of universal citizenship in the Colombian republic. Yet there was no agreement over the rights that emancipatory citizenship would provide. Jason McGraw explores the political struggles over citizenship–and the recognition of that citizenship–in the six decades after emancipation in his book, The Work of Recognition: Caribbean Colombia and the Postemancipation Struggle for Citizenship (UNC Press, 2014). Combining social, political, and intellectual history, McGraw carefully shows how lettered elites, who mostly succeeded in eliminating illiterate Colombians from formal politics, never managed to silence fully the rich vernacular politics of the working classes. In the process, The Work of Recognition argues for the centrality of Afro-Colombians, the Caribbean region, and the legacy of emancipation to Colombian national political struggles of the nineteenth century and the emergence of robust labor politics in the early twentieth.