Department of Psychology and Behavioural Sciences

The Road to Taisha: Indigenous Protests for road infrastructure in the Ecuadorian Amazon and the Ontological Turn

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This contribution examines protests by Shuar people in the Ecuadorian Amazon during the summer of 2015 in favour of the construction of a road through their territory. Can the ontological turn help us understand such events? Debates around the ontological turn have hinged around its potential contribution to the analysis of environmental challenges and political conflicts. In this article, I argue that central concepts from the ontological turn – such as animism (Descola 2005) or perspectivism (Viveiros de Castro 2004) - may add nuance but not substance to anthropological understandings of environmental conflicts. I focus on the stakes of these conflicts, the construction of alliances, and the tactics used by the different stakeholders. The idea that there exist fundamentally different ways of understanding and relating “nature” and “culture” could lead us to imagine that “environmental conflicts” would need to be fundamentally re-conceptualised. Although I do not deny that such re-conceptualization might be possible, I argue that its results would not necessarily bring us closer to the intentions of real actors or shed light on significant but ignored aspects of these conflicts. On the contrary, it risks concealing or distorting the actions and statements of indigenous people involved in the conflict.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)13-32
Number of pages19
Publication statusPublished - 2022

    Research areas

  • indigenous politics, Amazonia, activism, Ontological turn, protest

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