Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation


Arts and Sciences



First Advisor

Dr. Carmen Martínez Novo

Second Advisor

Dr. Ann Kingsolver


This dissertation explores the experiences of an indigenous community from the Northern Ecuadorian Amazon during the implementation of extractivism, development, and redistributive projects. Drawing on twenty months of ethnographic fieldwork in the community of Playas del Cuyabeno and in Quito, the capital of Ecuador, I question the common assumption that indigenous peoples radically reject extractivism and state-imposed modernizing agendas. In contrast, this study shows how indigenous peoples negotiate resource extraction in their territories and navigate the partial failures of postneoliberal redistribution and the contradictory agendas of economic development projects—specifically the aim of the postneoliberal Ecuadorian government’s project to redistribute rents from oil extraction for the well-being of Ecuadorian residents.

Most scholars focusing their analyses on the phase of resource extraction and its effects on indigenous peoples have described the state postneoliberal agendas as extractivist and disciplinary. However, the dynamics of the relations between state institutions and indigenous communities after the natural resources are extracted—when these are transformed into state rents and put into circulation through the implementation of state plans and infrastructure—has been understudied. I argue that the expansion of extractivism, and the disciplining of indigenous peoples, are not the only agendas that explain postneoliberal development and redistribution in indigenous territories. Rather, I show how different groups coexisting within the state struggled to implement their agendas and to obtain state resources, while actors from the private sector involved in the planning and implementation of state projects created everyday mechanisms to appropriate state revenues from oil, to the detriment of achieving a more effective redistribution of state oil rents in Ecuador.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

Funding Information

This research has been funded by several agencies and institutions: the UK Anthropology Excellence Dissertation Fellowship in the Spring of 2019; the Ecuadorian National Secretary of Higher Education, Science Technology, and Innovation Fellowship from 2014 to 2018; The Latin American Council of Social Sciences Grant (CLACSO for its Spanish acronym), on Inequalities in Latin America (from November 2015 to May 2016); the Lambda Alpha Graduate Research Grant (in June 30 of 2015); and the University of Kentucky departments funding, such as, the Latin American, Caribbean and Latino Studies Program Travel Grant for Research (in the summer of 2015) and the O’Dear Summer Research Grant (in the summer of 2015) awarded by the Latin American and Latino Studies Program and the Anthropology department, respectively.