Roger Thayer Stone Center For Latin American Studies

Tulane University

A Talk by Dr. Timothy J. Smith:"(Dis)lodging Development: Indigenous Praxis and Community Tourism in Amazonian Ecuador."

February 6th, 2015
4:00 PM

103 Dinwiddie Hall

The Tulane Anthropology Student Association (TASA) will present a talk Friday, February 6, at 4 PM in Dinwiddie 103 by Dr. Timothy J. Smith, Associate Professor of Anthropology at Appalachian State University. Dr. Smith received his undergraduate degrees from Tulane in Latin American Studies and Anthropology. His talk is entitled: “(Dis)lodging Development: Indigenous Praxis and Community Tourism in Amazonian Ecuador.”

A reception will follow.

Talk abstract:
Anthropology continues to give rise to critical studies of resources extraction in predominantly indigenous locations that seek to untangle local development interests by focusing on the construction of narratives that highlight deception and selling out. However, a return to praxis-oriented framings may better serve scholars by etching out the marketing of dichotomies that underwrite moral narratives of good vs. bad development, savvy vs. duped, and degradation vs. conservation. In this paper, I will present an ethnographic example of three Amazonian tourism projects that have emerged in the wake of oil extraction in eastern Ecuador and how members have put the old arguments over authenticity and the meaning of “indigenous” practice aside in their quest to provide revenue for local health and education initiatives. Although Amazonian Ecuador is usually represented as a site of struggle between oil companies and indigenous communities, I will provide you with an alternative narrative in which members of some Kichwa communities simultaneously wish to both protect and maintain the rainforest for the purposes of ecotourism while at the same time seeking employment with foreign oil companies. Meanwhile, other communities have sought out eco-tourism initiatives not in opposition to oil extraction (read: moral or ontological concerns) but to replace what they perceive as a potential loss of incentives by their own decisions. One of my goals with this research is to consider how lived experiences and economic concerns drive local strategies to mitigate, if not influence, the impacts on indigenous communities and their environs due to recent exploratory concessions granted by the Ecuadorian government to international oil firms. Furthermore, I will argue that Kichwa communities’ flexible involvement with both oil and eco-tourism is borne out of a complex and dynamic understanding of nature that does not neatly map onto the environmentalist imaginaries of “green” Indians not the “rational” extractive model of nature as a site of commodities. I hope to show that while oil extraction and eco-tourism in the same region might be viewed as ideologically incommensurable, they are perhaps more alike than different when livelihood tactics and strategies are taken into consideration.

Email TASA ( with any questions.




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