This thesis seeks to explore experiences of relocation and resettlement in two indigenous communities in Cauca, Colombia. The people from Tóez and San José were among those forcibly displaced from their homes in the region of Tierradentro by the events of June 6th, 1994: the earthquake, landslides and mud floods that were to become known as the disaster of Páez. I did fieldwork with the resettled communities of San José and Tóez during a twelve month period from July 1996 to July 1997. My main focus was their processes of construction and reconstruction – of community, of place, and of belonging.
Theoretical grounding of this thesis is to be found in the tension between community and locality, as seen from the point of view of resettling communities making a continued and deliberate effort to re-root themselves in space, and between dwelling and travelling, perceived as interdependent practices together constitutive of successful resettlement.
These communities strove to colonise and transform resettlement land into community anchorage. Three areas of substantial practice, constitutive of resettlement dwelling, will receive particular attention: that of cultivating new land, of constructing new houses, and of adapting food practices and food discourse to resettlement life. Resettlement practices further involved concentrated efforts towards remapping terrain; travel routes and travel itineraries were explored and constructed to situate the resettlements in post disaster landscapes. Traditional institutions such as the resguardo and the minga were deliberately and painstakingly reworked and adapted to be useful as resettlement tools. While resettlement was perceived as a project of and for community construction, these communities were very concerned with their position in and relationships with outside others. These resettlement projects sought to situate the communities as nodal points through the building of relations and networks in various contexts of relevance.