The extractive paradigm in literature and the arts from Ecuador, Peru and Colombia

El paradigma extractivo en la literatura y el arte de Ecuador, Perú y Colombia
Start - End 
2019 - 2022 (ongoing)



The focus of this research project lies on 21st century literature from the Andean countries, especially Ecuador, Peru and Colombia, which draws upon and bears witness to the region´s high geographical diversity and the violence which colonialism, global capitalism and extractivism have inscribed into cultural and natural landscapes. This study is interested in how a selection of novels which fulfill those criteria create and transmit ecological and eco-cultural awareness, values and imagination, and asks in which way they engage with a broader discourse on socio-ecological problems, degradation and environmental injustices of the 21st century. In conversation with postcolonial approaches within the environmental humanities, this project explores how a small number of writers in the region deals with the exploitation of human and non-human life in the sake of progress and development. The spatial geographies of the selected literary texts, which can be seen as part of what Rob Nixon called “the frontlines of the global resource wars”, explicitly or more subtly refer to concrete places and past or recent processes and conflicts in the highlands and the lowlands, the wetlands and the drylands of the Andes, the Amazon, the Pacific coast and the Caribbean of Ecuador, Peru and Colombia. Those highly sensible and diverse geographical spaces as referred to and imagined in the texts of the corpus, are approached within the paradigm of the “extractive zone” (Macarena Gómez-Barris) which since the European colonization of the Americas has turned life and natural resources into global commodities. Extractivism has had violent effects on land, water and soil, nature and human life, ecology and cultures, local knowledges and place, belonging and subjectivity, community and identity. The critical reading of the selected works is informed by an eco-cultural perspective (Andrew Ray) which foregrounds the relation between ecology and culture and the interconnectedness –yet not universal but differentiated– between nature and cultural systems (Hubert Zapf). Following Jens Andermann´s reflection on the experience of subjectivity in late capitalism (against the background of uprooting and the disrupted link between the human subject and natural space), the study is interested in how the relation between subjectivity and place (being and belonging) within the violated landscapes and disputed territories of the extractive zones is represented in the literary works. The corpus of the research is composed by novels form Ecuador, Peru and Colombia which are considered part of a broader, present day discourse on ecological and socio-ecological problems, challenges and injustices linked to extractive policies and global capitalism. Other contributions to that discourse can be found in chronicles, documentary films, visual and performative arts and activism and is put into dialogue with the analysis of the corpus. That discourse, which some years ago was especially stimulated by critical (and less critical) debates on the paradigm of el buen vivir , has gained considerable strength during the last decade through the presence of indigenous, afro descendants and peasant movements, as well as other socio-environmental organizations, activists and networks in South America and beyond. As proposed by Serenella Iovino, this research project assigns literature the role and potential of transmitting and creating values and awareness about urgent issues of our time, reaching from local ecological and social violence and liabilities to global challenges and responsibilities. 


Selected references:

Andermann, Jens. Tierras en trances. Arte y naturaleza después del paisaje. Santiago: ediciones/metales pasados, 2018.

DeLoughrey, Elizabeth, Jill Didur, and Anthony Carrigan, eds. Global Ecologies and the Environmental Humanities. Postcolonial Approaches. New York/Abingdon: Routledge, 2015.

Gómez-Barris, Macarena. The Extractive Zone. Social Ecologies and Decolonial Perspectives. Durham/London: Duke University Press, 2017.

Iovino, Serenella. “Ecocriticism and a Non-Anthropocentric Humanism. Reflections on Local Natures and Global Responsibilities.” Local Natures, Global Responsibilities: Ecocritical Perspectives on the New English Literatures (Cross/Cultures 121 ASNEL Papers 15). Ed. Laurenz Volkmann et al. Rodopi: Amsterdam/New York, 2010. 29-53.

Nixon, Rob. Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2011.

Ray, Andrew M. La naturaleza en la literatura costarricense: un enfoque eco-cultural. Quito: Abyayala, 2012.

Zapf, Hubert, ed. Handbook of Ecocriticism and Cultural Ecology. De Gruyter, 2016. Ebook.



Phd Student(s)