Natalia Buitron

Leverhulme Early Career Fellow

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. 

Indigenous sovereignties: a study of political plurality in Ecuadorian Amazonia

Natalia Buitron has previously taught and convened courses in Economic and Political Anthropology; Childhood; Kinship and Gender; and Research Methods (at the London School of Economics). She has also tutored MSc students in the Anthropology of Development.

Research Students supervised

Journal articles and special issues

Buitron , Natalia (with Hans Steinmüller) (2020) 'Le fins de l’égalitarism. Introduction’. In Special Issue ‘Le fins de l’égalitarism', L’Homme 236 5-44
Buitron , Natalia (2020) 'Autonomy, Productiveness and Community: The Rise of Inequality in an Amazonian Society', Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 26 (1) 48-66
Buitron , Natalia (with Rita Astuti and Gregory Deshoulliere) (2019) 'Exchange and Co-production of Knowledges: Reflections from Amazonia', Anthropology of this Century
Buitron , Natalia (with Gregory Deshoulliere) (2019) 'Singularity on the Margins: Autobiographical Writings among the Shuar of Ecuadorian Amazonia', Tipití: Journal of the Society for the Anthropology of Lowland South America 16 (2) 195-214
Buitron , Natalia (with Grégory Deshoulliere ) (2019) 'An Indigenous Writing Boom: Cultural Experts and the Creation of a Scholarly Tradition', Tipití: Journal of the Society for the Anthropology of Lowland SouthAmerica 16 (2) 175-214
Buitron , Natalia (2017) 'On Desiring and Resisting the State', Anthropology of this Century 18


Buitron , Natalia (with Harry Walker) (forthcoming) 'Cognitive Science of Ethics and Morality: Lessons from Amazonia'. In James Laidlaw (ed) Cambridge Handbook of the Anthropology of Ethics and Morality , Cambridge University Press
Buitron , Natalia (2016) 'Paths to the Unfamiliar: Journeying with Children in Ecuadorian Amazonia'. In Catherine Allerton (ed) Children: Anthropological Encounters , Bloomsbury Press
Buitron , Natalia (2014) '“La pedagogía del Arutam” o Notas Etnográficas sobre la producción académica Shuar en torno a la “cultura” ["The Pedagogy of Arutam" or Ethnographic Notes on Shuar Academic Production on “Culture”]'. In Cristina Burneo Salazar (ed) On documents , Universidad San Francisco de Quito

Conference papers

Buitron , Natalia (2021) 'Games for Development: Competition, Solidarity and Entrepreneurship in an Amazonian Society', Workshop on ‘What Competition Is, What Competition Does: Ethnographies of Competition and Its Afterlives’, LSE, 4-8 January
Buitron , Natalia (2020) 'Welfare, Extraction, and the Contested Commons in Indigenous Ecuador: A View from the State’s Margins', Centre for Amerindian, Latin American and Caribbean Studies CAS, University of St Andrews, 5 March
Buitron , Natalia (2019) 'Academic Chair in ‘Tensions between the Protection of Indigenous Rights and the Agro-industrial Frontier Expansion in Brazil', LSE - Latin American and Caribbean Centre, 15 November
Buitron , Natalia (2019) 'Indigenous Experiments with Democracy: Becoming and Resisting Government in Ecuadorian Amazonia', Workshop ‘The Rule of All: Democracy and Democratising Movements Today’, Danish Institute at Athens, March 4-6
Buitron , Natalia (2018) 'Shuar Village Assemblies as Direct Democracy: Towards a Theory of Non-coercive Statecraft', Cambridge Senior Research Seminar, Cambridge, 9 November
Natalia Buitron
Research interests:

Indigeneity; state formation; social movements; territory; sovereignty; sustainable development; extractivism and environmental justice; morality and justice; autonomy; egalitarianism; schooling and intercultural education; social conflict.