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Welcome to the website of OJALA—the Observatory of Justice for Afrodescendants in Latin America. We invite you to read the various links on the page to learn about OJALA’s short history and objectives.

We intend to function in English, Spanish, and Portuguese.

With the creation of OJALA and the building of a Repository of relevant archives of legal cases from all national contexts in the Latin American region (see the webpage, OJALA’s Brief Historical Background, and OJALA’s constitution), we are engaging in a regional and comparative assessment of the usefulness (or lack thereof) of “multicultural legal instruments,” “anti-discrimination legislation,” and any other legal instrument adopted by municipal, provincial or departmental, national, and international or multilateral governing bodies to guarantee the respect of Afrodescendants’ rights, and remedy the wrongs they have experienced. We want to achieve this comparative work through the examination of specific legal cases coming from all national contexts in the region.

This collaborative, multidisciplinary, and comparative examination of legal cases should allow for a detailed and contextualized appreciation of the diverse forms anti-black racism, multiculturalism, and anti-racism have taken in the quite different Latin American national contexts. As we are in the early stages of organizing, our comparative approach when deconstructing specific legal cases is grounded on our awareness of how much fragile the rights Afrodescendants acquired with the so-called multicultural turn and thanks to the adoption of anti-discrimination laws are when comes the time of their application and protection in the everyday practice of life, and particularly in the routine operations of Latin American legal systems.

To understand the state, how it works, how it reproduces itself and how it changes, micro- analyses of interactions between identified state functionaries and specific individual citizens are necessary, as are an examination of the images of the state they relate to. This is where ethnography intervenes. And this is also where our project develops.  By paying careful attention to legal cases as they unfold in specific national contexts, our project wants to look at practices of the state through the examination of its legal system and the application of specific “legal instruments” for the benefit of Afrodescendants. The premise is that the state doesn’t exist but through the practice of its different agents who engage in relationships with citizens. And legal systems exist through the practice and administration of the law by specialized and trained agents (the state legal system’s officers: the judges, attorneys, law enforcement officers, etc.) who enter in relationships with—in this case—Afrodescendant citizens who are looking for redress.

We are now in the process of:

  1. Preparing a special issue of the journal Latin American and Caribbean Ethnic Studies (LACES), entitled “Justice for Afrodescendants in Latin America: An Interrogation of Ethnoracial Law,” with the legal cases from the region we have discussed during our February 2018 meeting.  That special issue should come out in December 2019.

  2. Looking to expand our membership so that we have country-specific teams of collaborators in all national contexts of the region.

  3. Actively looking for funding so that we can begin the complex work of building the Repository of relevant archives about specific legal cases in the region (from the late 1980s until today), and continue conducting comparative research on all aspects of Latin American justice systems as they relate to Afrodescendants and the protection and promotion of their rights.

Please, share your thoughts.

We can be contacted at ojala@fiu.edu

Jean Muteba Rahier
August, 2019