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Social Lives and Symbolic Capital

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

Veronica Davidov

Keywords: Canada; disorder; Ecuador; indigenous communities; lawsuits; oil extraction; order; symbolic orders

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.

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