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Imagined Borders: (Un)Bounded Spaces of Oil Extraction and Indigenous Sociality in “Post-Neoliberal” Ecuador


In this paper, we analyze state practices of border-making through an ethnographic focus on Ecuadorian Amazonia and the Waorani, an Indigenous society, who, before sustained contact with the outside world began in 1958, possessed stark spatial and social borders often reinforced through warfare. Following that contact and the creation of various iterations of a legally-demarcated Waorani territory, the spatial and social borders of Waorani culture, based on a common property regime, came into conflict with the borders produced by the state in cooperation with transnational capitalism in the form of the oil industry. We discuss how these shifting borders led to cascading effects on Waorani reciprocity, their relationship to natural resources, sense of security and designation of membership in the community. Finally, we discuss how the leftist Ecuadorian state under President Rafael Correa justifies and facilitates the country’s oil-focused spatial processes through a post-neoliberal discourse.

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