Affective Geographies of Oil Politics: Deception and Rage in Northern Ecuador

Authors: Angus Lyall*, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Topics: Resources, Cultural Geography
Keywords: oil, Ecuador, affect, memory
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:45 PM
Room: Roosevelt 5, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Amid a boom in critical scholarship on oil extraction in Latin America, much research has tracked struggles among international companies, nation-states, and local communities, reproducing a common hierarchical relation between analytical scales that entails particular epistemological assumptions and elisions. Affective relations and obligations at the intimate scales of home and body do fundamental work in shaping politics and policies across multiple geopolitical boundaries. I consider the case of an indigenous Kichwa uprising directed against the entrance of oil companies into their territory in the northern Ecuadorian Amazon. As I detail the dynamics that spurred indigenous mobilization in the Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve – and that ultimately re-shaped state policies and institutions for years to come, I highlight how the encounter between indigenous families and white oil actors triggered indigenous “rage” through memories of the deception and violence perpetrated by white merchants against parents and grandparents, during prior resource booms of the 20th century. The geopolitics of control over oil-rich territories in northern Ecuador are entangled with the affective traces of colonial histories. An uprising that began largely as a cathartic moment of reckoning for past harms to loved ones would later transform and manifest as calculated geopolitical positioning.

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