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School of Geography

Dr Ana Laura Zavala Guillen

Ana Laura

British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow



I joined Queen Mary University of London as a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow working on the research project titled, ‘Blackness in Resistance: Territory and Regime Violence in Uruguay’, with Dr Sam Halvorsen.

I am interested in the historical and geographical analysis of space-making by enslaved people, their descendants, and their social movements (including socio-territorial ones) as a practice of resistance in the geographies of the Americas and the Caribbean. My approach as an activist scholar is participatory. It combines oral tradition and archival records co-analysed by the Afro-descendant communities, in some cases, through the implementation of participatory mapping.

Sponsored by the University Prize Scholarship, I pursued a PhD in Human Geography at the University of Sheffield. During my PhD, I studied the territorial dispossession and resistance of the fugitives from slavery - or Maroons - and their descendants in the Colombian Caribbean from colonial times to the present day.

During my ESRC Postdoctoral Fellowship at the University of Birmingham, my doctoral research expanded by including work with Afro-descendant communities in Panama on territorial precarity, diaspora, and the mobilisation of the legacy of past marronage in present times.

My professional background also includes extensive practice as a human rights lawyer in the criminal investigation of crimes against humanity, genocide, and war crimes in Argentina, Colombia, Guatemala, the Former Yugoslavia, and Western Sahara. Furthermore, I hold a Masters degree in Human Rights for the Universidad Carlos III de Madrid, and a Masters degree in Conflict Resolution for Bradford University, which was sponsored by the prestigious Rotary Peace Fellowship. These previous experiences have also made me explore legal geography and the intersections between law, property rights, and legal precarity and violence against Black geographies in Latin America.

I am also one of the founders of the Network of Women doing Fieldwork. This is a collective, feminist and decolonial space that raises awareness regarding gender-based violence during data collection while identifying coping mechanisms and lessons learned from our work in the field.



Zavala Guillen, A.L. (2021) Maroon Socioterritorial Movements, Annals of the American Association of Geographers, DOI: 10.1080/24694452.2021.1959293

Zavala Guillen, A. L. (2021) Afro-Latin American geographies of in-betweenness: Colonial marronage in Colombia, Journal of Historical Geography, Volume 72, April 2021, Pages 13-22. Open Access:

Zavala Guillén, A. L. (2019), 'A geographical approach to the Moiwana Community v Suriname' in Research Methods for International Human Rights Law: Beyond the Traditional Paradigm, ed. Damian Gonzalez-Salzberg & Loveday Hodson (London and New York: Routledge), 146-170.

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