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Abstract

In October 2013, a group of indigenous women from the southeastern Ecuadorian Amazon started the “March of Life”. This 250-km long march – organized and led entirely by female representatives from the Achuar, Shuar, Zapara, Kichwa, Shiwiar, Andoa, and Waorani indigenous organizations – proceeded from the Amazonian city of Puyo to the capital city of Quito and was a response to the 11th oil licensing round in their territories. After this symbolic and arduous march, Amazonian women have continued to organize as a network and as active members of their indigenous organizations against renewed attempts by the government of licensing their territories to extractive companies, making their voices heard in the national media and their proposals more visible within the broader spectrum of environmental, anti-extractive and popular feminist struggles in Ecuador. This is the case of their proposal to declare the Amazon a “Living Forest,” publicly presented to the Ecuadorian National Assembly in 2013. Departing from my colabor ethnography with five leaders and members from this network – Elvia Dagua, Zoila Castillo, Rosa Gualinga, Nancy Santi, and Salomé Aranda –, and decolonial, feminist and Latin American indigenous thought, this paper reflects about the role of Amazonian women’s concrete practices that make the Amazon a “living forest” and that sustain their territorial struggle. Practices like cultivating the land, weaving clay pottery, sharing dreams in the mornings, or singing “with a purpose” are practices that not only build affective relations between the human and non-human, but that constantly recognize, relate to and even make the forest into a living entity. At the same time, these practices of forest-making nurture Amazonian women’s organizational strategies – e.g. when they sing at meetings with representatives from the government – and political discourse when confronting the state and oil companies. With this analysis, I hope to shed light on how Amazonian women’s territorial struggle is decolonizing environmental imaginaries about the Amazon as an untouched territory to be preserved, makes evident the continuum between resistance strategies and the reproduction of human and non-human life in the rainforest, and is transforming the anti-extractive struggle at large.

Note on the Author

Andrea Sempértegui is from Justus Liebig University of Giessen, Germany. Ph.D. Candidate in Sociology (Graduate Centre for the Study of Culture).

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