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Natalia Buitron is an anthropologist exploring political subjectivities, indigeneity, and development, specifically how broader political and economic forms interweave with moral transformation in daily life. Her regional expertise is Latin America, with a focus on Amazonia. Natalia’s research interests include relations between indigenous social movements, missionaries, and the state; self-governance; vernacular democracy; community-driven development; intercultural education and childhood.
Her first book project, ‘The Attraction of Unity: Autonomy and Government in Amazonia’ explores the dilemma of pursuing political independence through state formation at the periphery: It analyses the challenges faced by Shuar indigenous people living in the rainforest of southeastern Ecuador, after their relocation in sedentary villages and their appropriation of government offices, ethno-education, and development projects.
As principal investigator on a Leverhulme-funded research project, Natalia now investigates the wider scene of interethnic politics in Ecuadorian Amazonia through a study of Pachakutik Plurinational Unity Movement, one of South America’s oldest and most influential social movements. The study fleshes out the theoretical implications of taking indigenous politics seriously in re-thinking normative models of sovereignty, development and wellbeing.
Natalia previously worked at the London School of Economics, where she also did her PhD. Through an ERC-funded, collaborative project ‘Justice, Morality, and the State’, she explored ethnographically how practices of care and autonomy inform indigenous modes of justice and reinvent Latin American multicultural governance from the bottom-up.
She serves on the board of directors of the Society for the Anthropology of Lowland South America (SALSA), and is Full Fellow of the UK Higher Education Academy. Natalia is deeply interested in critical/collaborative pedagogy and has participated in the development of indigenous-led educational programmes and knowledge exchange projects in Latin America and Europe.
She is co-convenor of a new Indigenous Studies Group at Oxford University.