The University of Arizona

Seeing like the people: a history of territory and resistance in the southern Ecuadorian Amazon

Diana Vela-Almeida


The Cordillera del Condor in the Ecuadorian Amazon has been analyzed frequently in the literature of extractivism in Latin America, due to the current mining pressure on this territory. Mining is, however, the most recent in a long history of territorial transformations in the region. The production of territory in the Cordillera del Condor is the result of a complex historical accumulation of events, motivated by the political economy of the country that has transformed the people and its land. By studying the main events of state deterritorialization, this article examines multiple socio-spatial relations that occurred in the Cordillera del Condor. This article identifies three main events of state deterritorialization: (1) colonization and evangelization, (2) the Ecuador-Peru war and (3) large-scale mining. The analysis illustrates how territory is constantly integrated into the economic and political rationality of the nation-state and discusses these transformations in line with the institutionalization of new forms of organization, legibility, commodification of nature and subjectification of people. In contrast, the study also illustrates how people inhabiting this space counteract state deterritorialization by deploying the same strategies as the state; reinforcing reterritorialization in their own terms. The article concludes by highlighting the agency of people to reshape state mechanisms in the struggle of defining a territory.

Keywords: state deterritorialization, reterritorialization, political ecology, Cordillera del Condor, Ecuador

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