When Forests Run Amok: War and Its Afterlives in Indigenous and Afro-Colombian Territories

Regular price $ 26.95

by Daniel Ruiz-Serna

Duke University Press

2/24/2023, paperback

SKU: 9781478019503


In When Forests Run Amok Daniel Ruiz-Serna follows the afterlives of war, showing how they affect the variety of human and nonhuman beings that compose the region of Bajo Atrato: the traditional land of Indigenous and Afro-Colombian peoples. Attending to Colombia’s armed conflict as an experience that resounds in the lives and deaths of people, animals, trees, rivers, and spirits, Ruiz-Serna traces a lasting damage that brought Indigenous peoples to compel the Colombian government to legally recognize their territories as victims of war.

Although this recognition extends transitional justice into new terrains, Ruiz-Serna considers the collective and individual wounds that continue unsettling spirits, preventing shamans from containing evil, attracting jaguars to the taste of human flesh, troubling the flow of rivers, and impeding the ability of people to properly deal with the dead. Ruiz-Serna raises potent questions about the meanings of justice, the forms it can take, and the limits of human-rights frameworks to repair the cosmic order that war unravels when it unsettles more-than-human worlds—causing forests to run amok.


"This beautifully written and profound book vividly describes how warfare and ecological ruination on Colombia's Pacific coast affect Afro-Colombian and Indigenous experiences of forests and rivers and the nonhuman entities that populate them. A moving and sophisticated ethnography, When Forests Run Amok makes an important contribution to current debates about place, violence, posthumanism, and ontological entanglements in Latin America and beyond." -- Gastón R. Gordillo, author of Rubble: The Afterlife of Destruction

"When Forests Run Amok practices thought beyond the limits of the historically possible. In so doing, it unfolds a palimpsest of violence that faces up to what Latour called 'the war of the worlds.' Populated by vividly described entities that are as perplexing as they are quotidian, the stories of war that make up this book request the reader to think the unthinkable and consider a paradox: inhabiting epistemic conflict without solving it may give peace a chance. Conjuring our senses into a vertiginous war, the realism this book narrates cannot be discounted as magical even as it defies the norms of the usual real." -- Marisol de la Cadena, author of Earth Beings: Ecologies of Practice across Andean Worlds

About the Author:

Daniel Ruiz-Serna is Lecturer of Anthropology at Dawson College.