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A Future for Amazonia

Randy Borman and Cofán Environmental Politics

By Michael Cepek

Publication Year: 2012

Published by: University of Texas Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. ix-xii

I became interested in the Cofán people of Amazonian Ecuador because of the radical shift in their historical position. Their bodies and lands have suffered centuries of physical violence, environmental destruction, and political marginalization. For decades, observers predicted their...

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pp. xiii-xvi

Many individuals and institutions helped this book to see the light of day. I researched and wrote it with support from the National Science Foundation, the Fulbright Commission, the Tinker Foundation, the Woodrow Wilson Foundation, the Mellon Foundation, the Field Museum...

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Introduction: Cofán Possibilities

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pp. 1-26

This book is a realist ethnography written in a utopian spirit. Its main characters belong to the Cofán ethnolinguistic group, an indigenous people of Amazonian Ecuador who face a microcosm of the forces that are devastating the world’s cultural and biological diversity. After generations...

Part I: An Individual and a People

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1. Agency: The Emergence of an Intercultural Leader

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pp. 29-54

My most definitive memory of Randy Borman involved a calamitous event. On November 3, 2002, the volcano Reventador, located at the southwestern edge of Cofán territory, violently erupted. I had taken a day trip with a friend to the town of Papallacta, which sits atop the Andes on the...

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2. Identity: Collectivity and Difference

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pp. 55-78

One of the most important achievements of the Zábalo Cofán was the ejection of oil companies from their territory in the mid-1990s. After discovering seismic exploration crews on their land, community residents went on the offensive. After a series of encounters, they confiscated the...

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3. Value: The Dilemma of Being Cofán

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pp. 79-99

Randy Borman’s uniqueness is only one aspect of contemporary Cofán diversity. In Zábalo, the lives of two men—Antonio and Pablo—express a more basic distinction. Now in his fifties, Antonio is hardworking and generous. I jokingly call him yaya (father), as I always eat at his house while...

Part II: An Experiment in Indigenous and Environmental Politics

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4. The NGO: Institutionalizing Activism

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pp. 103-137

I began this book by introducing the three meanings of “possibility” that orient my approach to Cofán politics. The first sense—the conditional nature of Cofán institutions and accomplishments—is impossible to ignore when considering the Foundation for the Survival of the Cofán People...

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5. The Forest: Collaborating with Science and Conservation

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pp. 138-168

Although many Cofán people benefit from FSC-supported initiatives, few play a direct role in running the organization. At the community level, however, a great number of Cofán are active participants in experimental environmental projects. Zábalo is a case in point. Since the 1980s, its residents...

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6. The School in the City: Producing the Cofán of the Future

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pp. 169-209

On a December morning in 2001, I used my satellite telephone to call Quito from Zábalo. Word had arrived that Randy Borman was seriously sick. Amelia Quenamá answered. She told me that her husband was bedridden with a crushing, days-old headache. He had been to multiple...

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Conclusion: A Possible Forest

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pp. 210-223

In the midafternoon, on a path close to a garden, a girl walked by a tree. “Where are you going?” someone said to her. “Who just spoke?” replied the girl. She stopped and looked behind her. Again, the voice spoke, “Where are you coming from?” She was scared and went to look at the tree trunk...


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pp. 224-229


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pp. 230-243


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pp. 245-256

E-ISBN-13: 9780292739512
E-ISBN-10: 0292739516
Print-ISBN-13: 9780292739499
Print-ISBN-10: 0292739494

Publication Year: 2012