Extractivism and the rights of nature: governmentality, ‘convenient communities’ and epistemic pacts in Ecuador

Carolina Valladares*, Rutgerd Boelens

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

39 Citations (Scopus)


Ecuador’s recently adopted conflict resolution techniques have aggravated the always tense encounters between Amazonian indigenous communities, oil companies and the state. The state’s governmentality project portrays these socio-environmental conflicts as mere technical–managerial issues while societal coalitions re-politicize them through territorial defense struggles. The Cofán Dureno case highlights how the self-proclaimed ‘Citizen’s Revolution’ government seeks to redefine socio-natural relationships and territorial identities, devising ‘communities of convenience’. These correspond to the state’s own images, political structure and ideology, promoting ‘community participation’ to facilitate oil extraction. Ecuador’s constitutionally recognized Rights of Nature (paradoxically installed by the same government) are analyzed with a focus on their potential for resisting socio-environmental injustice. The internationally celebrated inclusion of these rights in the Constitution was advocated by nonindigenous intellectual activists but influenced and supported by the indigenous movement. Beyond legal implications, these rights might foster an epistemic pact between indigenous and nonindigenous society to defend territories from extractive industries.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1015-1034
JournalEnvironmental Politics
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • cultural politics
  • Ecuadorian Amazon region
  • epistemologies
  • extractivism
  • Governmentality
  • Rights of Nature


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