Anthropology and Environment Society
Oral Presentation Session
Like in the broader field of international development, questions of local participation and collaboration have become increasingly central to the work of environmental conservation in the global south. In Lowland South America in particular, the mapping, demarcation and protection of indigenous lands in the wake of extractive economies has become an increasingly collaborative endeavour – across cultures and national boundaries. Today indigenous people from diverse backgrounds work alongside myriad external actors, including international environmental organizations, political activists, and national indigenous movements.
Focusing on current environmental conservation initiatives promoted by indigenous Waorani people and their allies in Amazonian Ecuador, this paper explores the new technologies, relationships and ways of knowing “land” and “territory” that emerge in these encounters. I address not only the question of how collaboration is envisioned and communicated in these contexts, but also how different stakeholders navigate radically different ideas of environmental protection. Focusing on recent struggles against the expansion of oil extraction on Waorani lands, I describe how joint political action and the delivery of specific conservation goals become possible despite seemingly contradictory agendas, goals, and understandings of what constitutes indigenous land, territory, and its conservation. Drawing on recent writing on interdisciplinarity, I argue for the importance of collaboration not as a space of agreement or consensus, but instead a context where diverse – and often conflicting – agendas can produce novel responses to contemporary challenges.