Ecuador is the third-largest foreign supplier of crude oil to the western United States. As the source of this oil, the Ecuadorian Amazon has borne the far-reaching social and environmental consequences of a growing U.S. demand for petroleum and the dynamics of economic globalization it necessitates. Crude Chronicles
traces the emergence during the 1990s of a highly organized indigenous movement and its struggles against a U.S. oil company and Ecuadorian neoliberal policies. Against the backdrop of mounting government attempts to privatize and liberalize the national economy, Suzana Sawyer shows how neoliberal reforms in Ecuador led to a crisis of governance, accountability, and representation that spurred one of twentieth-century Latin America’s strongest indigenous movements.
Through her rich ethnography of indigenous marches, demonstrations, occupations, and negotiations, Sawyer tracks the growing sophistication of indigenous politics as Indians subverted, re-deployed, and, at times, capitulated to the dictates and desires of a transnational neoliberal logic. At the same time, she follows the multiple maneuvers and discourses that the multinational corporation and the Ecuadorian state used to circumscribe and contain indigenous opposition. Ultimately, Sawyer reveals that indigenous struggles over land and oil operations in Ecuador were as much about reconfiguring national and transnational inequality—that is, rupturing the silence around racial injustice, exacting spaces of accountability, and rewriting narratives of national belonging—as they were about the material use and extraction of rain-forest resources.
A Note on Names xii
I NATIONAL NARRATIVES
1. Amazonian Imaginaries 27
2. Crude Excesses 57
II. PETROLEUM POLITICS
3. Neoliberal Ironies 91
4. Corporate Antipolitics 118
III. RACED RELATITIES
5. Contested Terrain 149
6. Liberal Legal-Scapes 182
Closing: A Plurinational Space 211
“Crude Chronicles seamlessly weaves the compelling richness of an exceptional ethnographic account with the power of a story well told. By chronicling the history of the ongoing contest that has characterized the politics of petroleum in the Ecuadorian Amazon, Sawyer brilliantly illustrates the imbricated process by which indigenous and neoliberal geophraphies are configured and reconfigured in the process of making nature, nation, and citizens. Crude Chronicles will surely become a key reference point in future debates about the cultural politics of nature.”—Peter Brosius, University of Georgia
"Crude Chronicles is a splendid example of fine-grained ethnography. It illustrates in many ways why this approach continues to be the hallmark of anthropology. The best feature of the book is the lovingly detailed descriptions and close-to-the-ground analysis of dialogue and events. It will be mandatory reading for Latin Americanists interested in social movements, especially the indigenous and environmentalist movements, and of course, students of Ecuadorian politics.”—Jean E. Jackson, Massachusetts Institute of Technology