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Accepted Paper:

Kawsak Sacha - Territory of (Amazonian) Life  


Jenny García Ruales (Philipps University of Marburg, Max Planck Institute Social Anthropology)
Yacu Viteri Gualinga

Paper short abstract:

“Kawsak Sacha [is] a living and conscious being, a subject of rights". Our paper establishes a dialogue between a member of the local community and an activist anthropologist by contrasting their views of how the living forest declaration is an instrument to defend and sustain the "forest being”.

Paper long abstract:

A territory of life implies the recognition that everything has kawsak (life) in its own way. By way of collaborative authorship between a sacha runa (human-being of the forest) and an activist anthropologist, we will approach this "living" from our respective perspectives, accompanied by theories of the anthropology of life (Kohn 2013 & Pitrou 2016) and a multi-species ethnography.

The declaration of the living forest recognizes the Kawsak Sacha as “a living and conscious being, a subject of rights" and emerged in a long political struggle for autonomy. We elaborate on why the Kichwa People of Sarayaku still demand state recognition [of the declaration] and legal re-arrangements despite existing legal frameworks that guarantee the rights of nature and Indigenous People at the domestic and international level. Possible answers are that in Ecuador, there is no binding legal instrument for forest protection, and article 408 of the Constitution states that resources in the subsoil belong to the state, while the Sarayaku Runa (people) perceive them as “goods of life”.

This paper presents the daily life and ethnographic accounts of how strategies of defence, documentation and sustenance resist, transform and adapt to the temporality and logic of extractivist threats. In this sense, the declaration also invites us to rethink the changing relationship with the sacha (forest), as well as the shifting entanglements between the beings of the [cosmic, vegetal, human, spiritual, animal and mineral] forest worlds.

Panel P043b
Territories of Life: Wellsprings of Biocultural Relationship and Resurgence