Social Lives and Symbolic Capital

Indigenous ‘Oil Lawsuits’ as Sites of Order and Disorder Making

in Social Analysis
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  • 1 Monmouth University vdavidov@monmouth.edu
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Abstract

Lawsuits are representational arenas, as well as legal events. They serve as integrative spaces for power relations, symbolic orders, and moral economies. This article focuses on the ‘social lives’ of two lawsuits brought by indigenous communities to litigate issues arising from oil extraction on their territories: the Texaco lawsuit in the Ecuadorian Amazon and the Beaver Lake Cree Nation lawsuit in Alberta, Canada. I analyze the narratives of indigeneity and modernity that they challenge, as well as their potential to order and disorder social fabrics beyond the legal sphere. I argue that lawsuits are ethnographic dramas that make visible how various social actors ‘order’ the world into categories, such as ‘value’, ‘modernity’, ‘commons’, and ‘sovereignty’, and in the process render legible the constructed nature of symbolic life.

Contributor Notes

Veronica Davidov is an Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Monmouth University. She is an environmental anthropologist whose research focuses on human-nature relations and the cultural, political, and economic processes involved in their formation and negotiation. She is interested in how natural resources are constructed and contested in global and local arenas and the moral ecologies and economies that emerge when nature becomes a commodity. She has conducted long-term fieldwork in Ecuador and in northern Russia and has also done research in Canada and Cameroon. She is the author of Ecotourism and Cultural Production: An Anthropology of Indigenous Spaces in Ecuador (2013) and a co-editor of the journal Laboratorium: Russian Review of Social Research.

Social Analysis

The International Journal of Anthropology

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