Assistant professor Maria Fernanda Escallón, anthropology, was recently awarded a National Endowment for the Humanities fellowship to complete her book project Excluded: Black Cultural Heritage and the Politics of Diversity in Colombia.
The project examines why in Colombia disparities within Black groups continue to increase despite the heightened public attention for Afro-descendants and creation of public policies intended to combat ethno-racial inequality. Escallón argues that by using visibility as a form of inclusion, state-sponsored multicultural policies have entrenched structural discrimination and preserved systematic inequities. By examining the harmful consequences of the declaration of San Basilio de Palenque’s Afro-descendant culture as “Intangible Heritage of Humanity” by UNESCO, she traces how heritage policy ends up perpetuating, against declared intention, the inequalities that multicultural policies intend to resolve. Her research advances scholarship on rights, heritage and identity, and establishes the framework for a deeper, more nuanced understanding of the pervasiveness of inequality on a larger scale.