Becoming-Woman: CSR and the "Return of the Repressed" in Neo-Extractivist Ecuador

19 October, 2017

A seminar by: Erin Fitz-Henry (University of Melbourne)

In a 2011 essay, Arturo Escobar observed that there has recently been an intensification of interest on the part of both activists and academics in reclaiming the "subordinated" sides of a range of familiar dualisms, including "emotions, feelings, matter, non-scientific knowledges, body and places, [and] non-humans" (Escobar 2011). Using this observation as my point of departure, this paper analyses the ways that two extractive companies in Ecuador participate discursively in this "return of the repressed” (MacFarlane 2016). Drawing on six months of ethnographic fieldwork between 2012 and 2015 with a gold mining company and an oil refinery, I describe how these corporations institutionalize programs of corporate social responsibility that explicitly prioritize the “needs” of women and non-humans. Specifically, I argue that these highly masculinist industries no longer rely primarily on technocratic languages to distance themselves from the high political stakes of their projects. Instead, they are more and more actively involved in cultivating themselves as allies of women and as uniquely, locally attentive to the ecosystems within which they operate. At a time of dramatically intensifying extractivism throughout the Andes, better understanding these discursive strategies allows us to begin to better theorize some of the surprising ways that “women’s rights” and the "rights of nature" are being mobilized by corporations to encourage seductive re-imaginings of both oil and gold. Such theorizations raise urgent questions about what happens when critical theory is embraced by corporate social responsibility managers.

About the speaker:     
Dr. Erin Fitz-Henry joined the School of Social and Political Sciences in 2011, after completing a PhD in anthropology at Princeton University and an M.Div. at Harvard University. Her primary interests are transnational social movements, particularly those related to radical environmental politics, U.S. led-militarization and its legacies, and post-neoliberal futures. She is the author of U.S. Military Bases and Anti-Military Organizing: An Ethnography of an Air Force Base (2015), and her articles have appeared in American Ethnologist, Studies in Law, Politics, and Society, Oceania, Liminalities, and InterGraph Journal of Dialogical Anthropology.


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Location: Seminar Room 148, R. C. Mills Building, Level 1, A26

Contact:Dr Fernanda Penaloza