The Extractive Zone

Social Ecologies and Decolonial Perspectives

Book Pages: 208 Illustrations: 9 photographs Published: September 2017

Gender and Sexuality > LGBTQ Studies, Latin American Studies, Theory and Philosophy > Postcolonial Theory

In The Extractive Zone Macarena Gómez-Barris traces the political, aesthetic, and performative practices that emerge in opposition to the ruinous effects of extractive capital. The work of Indigenous activists, intellectuals, and artists in spaces Gómez-Barris labels extractive zones—majority indigenous regions in South America noted for their biodiversity and long history of exploitative natural resource extraction—resist and refuse the terms of racial capital and the continued legacies of colonialism. Extending decolonial theory with race, sexuality, and critical Indigenous studies, Gómez-Barris develops new vocabularies for alternative forms of social and political life. She shows how from Colombia to southern Chile artists like filmmaker Huichaqueo Perez and visual artist Carolina Caycedo formulate decolonial aesthetics. She also examines the decolonizing politics of a Bolivian anarcho-feminist collective and a coalition in eastern Ecuador that protects the region from oil drilling. In so doing, Gómez-Barris reveals the continued presence of colonial logics and locates emergent modes of living beyond the boundaries of destructive extractive capital.


"The Extractive Zone offers a glimpse into what kind of world may be possible through the everyday practices and knowledges of submerged perspectives." — Megan Spencer, The New Inquiry

"A timely study. . . . The result of substantive situated fieldwork. . . . There may be no greater testament to the value and urgency of decolonial approaches to embodied vernacular knowledge today." — Kimberly Richards, TDR: The Drama Review

"Gómez-Barris’ rich, multilayered text is notable for its explicit attention to the methodological and analytical pitfalls of the academic study of the periphery, pitfalls that academic scholarship alone will never overcome, as the latter both reflects and reproduces the stark inequities that structure the global order. The Extractive Zone raises thorny questions that we ought to grapple with more broadly, as a community of scholars with distinct perspectives on decoloniality as theory, method, and political-ethical practice." — Thea N. Riofrancos, Cultural Dynamics

"I suspect most readers of The Extractive Zone (2017) will agree that Macarena Gómez-Barris has given us a book that merits and rewards close, intensive engagement. I find it exemplary in terms of the archive it builds, the methodological coordinates it plots, and its elegant braiding together of aesthetic practices and political realities. As someone working on climate change and aesthetics, I find most compelling Gómez-Barris’ argument that aesthetic experiences enact methods of thinking and doing." — Thomas S Davis, Cultural Dynamics

"Gómez-Barris’s compelling text grapples with the destruction and death dealt by extractive industries. . . . This is all provocative and engaging material, particularly when set against political economic critiques of extractivism." — Joe Bryan, The Americas

"Gómez-Barris’s writing provides an anecdote to technocratic visions of 'green capitalism' by foregrounding questions of justice, identity, and the contingency of politics. Scholars interested in the debates animating anti-extractive social movements in Latin America and beyond should begin here." — Matthew Shutzer, Enterprise & Society

"The Extractive Zone contributes an important feminist and indigenous hemispheric genealogy and cultural studies lens on current political economic debates circulating in Latin America and beyond regarding alternatives to growth-oriented, capitalist and extractive-based models of development. The book also complicates heroic and romantic readings of the conceptual and legal mechanisms surrounding the state-based rhetoric of buen vivir in Latin American constitutionalism that too often appear uncritically examined in scholarship produced in the global North." — Kristina Lyons, Journal of Latin American Studies

“Extractivism and dispossession have a long history in the formation and transformation of the colonial matrix of power. Macarena Gómez-Barris provides a well-crafted theoretical and empirical update of this important dimension of coloniality hidden under the promises of modernity.” — Walter D. Mignolo, author of The Darker Side of Western Modernity: Global Futures, Decolonial Options

"Macarena Gómez-Barris makes several major contributions that shed new light on the ways extractivism operates while identifying pathways for seeing, imagining, and living beyond the imperatives of coloniality. Grounded in feminist and decolonial thinking, The Extractive Zone advances a methodology that refuses to separate the fight against extractivism from the struggle against modern colonial and patriarchal relations." — Nelson Maldonado-Torres, author of Against War: Views from the Underside of Modernity

“With astute precision, lyrical eloquence, and intellectual self-reflexivity, Macarena Gómez-Barris take us on a journey through Indigenous and Afro-Indigenous spaces in South America to imagine the extractive zone anew. In queering decoloniality, Gómez-Barris not only illuminates the hidden, the unseen, and that which is often neglected; she fosters an inspiring decolonial queer femme analytics. This brilliant book will make vital interventions for many years to come.” — Emma Pérez, author of The Decolonial Imaginary: Writing Chicanas into History


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Macarena Gómez-Barris is Chair of the Department of Social Science and Cultural Studies at the Pratt Institute, author of Where Memory Dwells: Culture and State Violence in Chile, and coeditor of Toward a Sociology of the Trace.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments  ix
Preface. Below the Surface  xiii
Introduction. Submerged Perspectives  1
1. The Intangibility of the Yasuní  17
2. Andean Phenomenology and New Age Settler Colonialism  39
3. An Archive for the Future: Seeing through Occupation  66
4. A Fish-Eye Episteme: Seeing Below the River's Colonization  91
5. Decolonial Gestures: Anarcho-Feminist Indigenous Critique  110
Conclusion. The View from Below  133
Notes  139
Bibliography  165
Index  179
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