Governing Indigenous Territories

Enacting Sovereignty in the Ecuadorian Amazon

Governing Indigenous Territories

Book Pages: 264 Illustrations: 6 photos, 2 tables, 10 maps, 1 figure Published: July 2013

Author: Juliet S. Erazo

Anthropology > Cultural Anthropology, Latin American Studies > Andes, Native and Indigenous Studies

Governing Indigenous Territories illuminates a paradox of modern indigenous lives. In recent decades, native peoples from Alaska to Cameroon have sought and gained legal title to significant areas of land, not as individuals or families but as large, collective organizations. Obtaining these collective titles represents an enormous accomplishment; it also creates dramatic changes. Once an indigenous territory is legally established, other governments and organizations expect it to act as a unified political entity, making decisions on behalf of its population and managing those living within its borders. A territorial government must mediate between outsiders and a not-always-united population within a context of constantly shifting global development priorities. The people of Rukullakta, a large indigenous territory in Ecuador, have struggled to enact sovereignty since the late 1960s. Drawing broadly applicable lessons from their experiences of self-rule, Juliet S. Erazo shows how collective titling produces new expectations, obligations, and subjectivities within indigenous territories.


“Juliet Erazo’s Governing Indigenous Territories is a thoughtful ethnography of indigenous politics and ‘territorial citizenship’ in the space of Rukullakta… Ultimately, the case study that this book encompasses is an excellent lens for understanding the political space of encounters between Amazonian Kichwa and the Ecuadorian state and non-state actors….” — Veronica Davidov, European Review of Latin American and Caribbean Studies

“This clear, well-organized book traces the 40-year ethnographic history of a self-governing autonomous region, Rukullakta Territory, in lowland Ecuador, providing a well-documented case study of how a community emerges…. Recommended.” — D. B. Heath, Choice

[A]n important book that should have wide appeal among geographers.” — Karl Offen, Journal of Latin American Geography

 "An insightful study of indigenous sovereignty enactment in the Ecuadorian Amazon as an exercise of continuous cultural and societal negotiation."  — Ileana Baeza Lope, AmeriQuests

"Altogether, this book makes a compelling argument for what a nuanced ethnographic perspective, grounded in everyday activities and lived experience and simultaneously sensitive to historical change, can offer to an understanding of broader geopolitical processes." — A. Kim Clark, The Americas

"Governing Indigenous Territories effectively reminds us of the ambiguities of identity categories and explores how people mobilize identity to push the limits of and remake the categories through which life is governed. Erazo’s narrative is attentive to how these flexibilities are part and parcel of how Rukullacta evolved as a territorial entity—what she calls 'everyday forms of territorial formation.' " — Gabriela Valdivia, American Anthropologist

"Governing Indigenous Territories is a significant contribution to the literature on Ecuadoran and Latin American indigenous politics. It is well-suited for teaching, and will be appreciated by specialists." — Bret Gustafson, Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology

"Erazo’s work excels at bridging . . . divides as she seamlessly and adeptly crosses disciplinary boundaries (anthropology, geography, political science, sociology, and history, among others). . . . The result is a well-written and well-organized book that engages the theoretical and ethnographic literature while also probing analytical concepts in a comprehensive fashion that successfully extends conversations concerning ethnic studies, social movements, civil rights, the environment, and other related issues." — Marc Becker, Latin American Research Review

“A valuable and thought provoking contribution.” — Melissa M. Forbis, PoLAR

"Governing Indigenous Territories is a beautiful ethnography, a compelling contribution to contemporary debates about indigenous peoples and sovereignty. The story that Juliet S. Erazo tells is about not just Ecuador or Latin America but larger political, economic, social, and ecological histories, practices, and ideologies. This is contemporary ethnography at its best." — Paige West, author of From Modern Production to Imagined Primitive: The Social World of Coffee from Papua New Guinea

"Governing Indigenous Territories is a superb work. Through rich ethnographic descriptions, Juliet S. Erazo breaks through essentialized notions of Amazonian Indigenous communities, capturing the dynamic, complex, changing nature of human experience. At the same time, she tells a global story of territoriality and resource use, a story involving local and federal governments, social movements, and nongovernmental organizations. This landmark book will appeal broadly across disciplines and provide a basis for future research." — Marc Becker, author of Indians and Leftists in the Making of Ecuador's Modern Indigenous Movements


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Price: $26.95

Open Access

Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Juliet S. Erazo is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Florida International University.

Table of Contents Back to Top
List of Maps ix

Selected Acronyms xi

Acknowledgments xiii

Preface xvii

Introduction 1

1. History, Empowerment, and Rule 27

2. Collectivist Utopias and "The Graveyard of Development Projects" 61

3. The Property Debate 97

4. Conservation and Environmental Subjects 133

5. Everyday Forms of Territory Formation 171

Conclusion. Making Citizens, Making Leaders, Making Territories 195

Appendixes 201

Notes 205

References 215

Index 227
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-5454-3 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-5440-6
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