Joseph Martínez


I am a Colombian PhD student in the Department of Geography at the University of Cambridge. In Colombia, I have undertaken fieldwork in the regions of Cauca, La Macarena and Montes de María (all severely affected by armed conflict), mapping encounters and tensions between projects of rural development and initiatives of post-conflict reconciliation. I have also studied discursive and identity formations associated with state war-waging strategies and national policies of post-conflict economic development. My current PhD research examines workers’ and peasants’ experiences of financialization through credit and debt, as well as international commodity price movements.



Work title


Oil palm in Montes de María, Colombia has become one defining element of peasant struggles in the region. Conventional accounts of these contested political ecologies focus on dispossession produced by palm oil and resistance of peasant communities, who are depicted in a relationship of complete opposition. With a different perspective, my suggested paper will focus on the existing articulations between palm oil production and peasant economies built on relations of debt and credit. I will capture three processes of agrarian transformation produced by finance in the articulation between plantations and peasant communities; namely, i) the transformation of local class structures and creation of new clas s and race subjectivities produced by the collateralization of land for credit access; ii) the use of credit as a labor and land disciplining mechanism, ensuring the reproduction of class structures and subjectivities in palm oil plantations; and iii) the extraction of value from kin an d peasant community relations through the voluntary labor of peasant leaders in daily administration of credits.

By tracking these three processes, I will offer insights about changes triggered by financialization in land and labor relations. In palm production in Colombia, effective control of land and labor, I would argue, has been achieved through evolving credit mechanisms that feed upon historical credit and debt relations present in the region before the arrival of palm oil. Credit allows plantations to rearticulate historical rhythms and forms of reproductive labor (specifically relations to land and forms of kin and family care regarded as campesinas) and existing class and race formations, so value can be extracted from local landscapes.


Affiliation: University of Cambridge, UK