Developing identities: Indigenous mobilization, rural livelihoods, and resource access in Ecuadorian Amazonia

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In the 30 years since Ecuador's agrarian reform, indigenous organizations have had a major impact on the country's institutional, political and natural landscapes. Originally formed largely in accordance with state-prescribed models, and with considerable guidance from external institutions, these organizations have worked to defend existing land claims; access institutional, financial and natural resources; and make civil rights claims against the state. Regional and national indigenous organizations have mobilized discourses of cultural identity in strategic ways in order to achieve these goals. This paper examines the scalar linkages between the processes of economic and social transformation in the Ecuadorian Amazon and the ways in which indigenous organizations have responded to these changes since the country's agrarian reform. I argue that the material and discursive mobilization of identity has been central to the aims of accessing resources and claiming political rights. Through a comparative case study of a regional indigenous federation and one of its constituent base communities, I highlight the differences between organizational histories, capacities and aims. Most studies of indigenous movements in the Amazon Basin have considered only regional or national organizations, often giving a false impression of homogeneity within such movements. I contend that detailed analysis of the relations between regional secondary-level indigenous federations and local base communities, as well as the micro-level processes of production and resource mobilization at the community and household scales, is crucial in understanding indigenous organizing processes in Ecuador today.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)381-413
Number of pages33
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2001

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Political Science and International Relations


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