Starting with an effective Hamiltonian for multi-quark systems, we propose a mapping of the quark degrees of freedom onto triplet fermions that represent colorless three-quark clusters. We end up with an effective Hamiltonian for the triplet fermions, which can be treated by traditional nuclear many-body techniques. In this approach, the nuclear ground state represents a quantum liquid of composite particles, the nucleons. Higher-lying states involve both excitations within the space of nucleons and excitations of the nucleons themselves. The method is tested in the context of a schematic model of quarks interacting through an angular momentum and isospin pairing interaction and is shown to be very promising.
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