Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Thesis Format



Doctor of Philosophy




A. Kim Clark


This dissertation presents an ethnographic analysis of the Afro women’s social organization CONAMUNE (Coordinadora Nacional de Mujeres Negras del Ecuador), the political thought and praxis of its members and their entanglement with myriad ethno-racial political spaces in contemporary Ecuador. CONAMUNE is an umbrella organization comprised of Afro women’s grassroots organizations from different provinces of Ecuador. In addition to their activities within CONAMUNE, many of the women with whom I worked have sought out positions of government employment or political representation (as teachers and principals, as employees of government ministries or programs, as local municipal councillors, etc.), through which they bring their lived experience into state spaces. In this context, I carried out a political ethnography among CONAMUNE members that focuses on Black women as political subjects and knowledge producers through fieldwork conducted in the Afro-Ecuadorian Ancestral Territory of Imbabura and Carchi, in the northern Ecuadorian highlands, from May 2018 - May 2019.

Drawing on three bodies of literature – anthropology of the state, Black feminism, and Afro-Latin and African diaspora studies – my research is an attempt to think with and alongside Afro women who shared their lives and stories with me. By focusing on those debates that resonate with the political practices, discourses and lived experiences of Afro-Ecuadorian women, the reflections presented here emerge from a process of thinking together as Afro women about ourselves as subjects of our own history and particular experiences and as political subjects and thinkers. Paying attention to how Afro women make sense of their lives by resignifying their past, theorizing their present and imagining their future offers an opportunity to understand the cultural construction of African diaspora identities in the Ancestral Territory of Imbabura and Carchi as well as interrogate the textures of the political from the perspective of Afro women. Afro-Ecuadorian women have been redefining the “political” and the racial state not as white-mestizo or indigenous and masculine spheres but rather as spaces for Afro women to occupy, navigate, lead, and transform. CONAMUNE members are building their own social organization while simultaneously advancing their gender and ethno-racial projects in different political spheres.

Summary for Lay Audience

This dissertation analyses Afro women’s social organizations in contemporary Ecuador, based on ethnographic fieldwork conducted in the provinces of Carchi, Imbabura and Pichincha in the northern highlands of Ecuador, between May 2018 and May 2019. This dissertation focuses on the lived experiences and political practices of members of CONAMUNE (Coordinadora Nacional de Mujeres Negras del Ecuador, National Coordinator of Black Women in Ecuador), which is an umbrella organization comprised of Afro women’s grassroots organizations from different provinces of Ecuador that was founded in 1999 in the First National Congress of Black Women of Ecuador in Ambuquí, Chota-Mira Valley, Imbabura. CONAMUNE aims to promote gender equality and to strengthen Afro women’s identity and pride as a strategy to eradicate poverty, sexism and racism but also gain political participation. This ethnographic research shows how Afro women move through the obstacles of racism, political exclusion and marginalization, and gender violence to imagine, create and transform lives for themselves and their communities by advancing projects such as the Ancestral Territory or Ethnoeducation from a gender perspective. This research also shows the multiple ways in which Afro women engage with and participate in “the state” by using several strategies and taking on diverse roles. In doing so, they are weaving together webs of relationships, institutions and projects rooted in their lived experiences and evolving political program.