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Suzana M. Sawyer

Suzana M. Sawyer

Associate Professor, PhD, Stanford University, 1997

317 Young Hall Department of Anthropology
University of California, Davis
One Shields Avenue
Davis, California 95616, USA

Fax: (530) 752-8885

Office Hours for Winter 2017 :

  • Monday 12noon-1pm


  1. 1997 Ph.D., Department of Anthropology, Stanford University
  2. 1989 M.A., Department of Anthropology, Stanford University
  3. 1986 B.A., Department of Anthropology, University of California, Berkeley
  4. ....
  5. Research Interests
  6. My research examines struggles over resources in the Ecuadorian Amazon, focusing specifically on conflicts over land and petroleum development among forest peoples, the state, and multinational oil companies.
  7. My book, Crude Chronicles: Indigenous Politics, Multinational Oil, and Neoliberalism in Ecuador, explores how lowland peoples have challenged neoliberal economic policies to privatize their lands and increase petroleum production within indigenous claimed territory. It suggests that struggles over resource use (i.e. the control of land and oil operations) are simultaneously struggles over identity and territoriality; that is, practices that disrupted the neo-liberal state's agenda and multinational petro-business also disrupted elite notions of the nation and senses of belonging. In a country such as Ecuador scarred by inequalities of race, class, and gender, struggles over resources use represent challenges to the legitimacy of an historically exclusionary state, as well as, occasions for redefining the terms of citizenship, nation, and sovereignty in a globalizing world.
  8. My current research project examines an on-going transnational lawsuit in Ecuador against the Chevron Corporation for industrial negligence and environmental contamination. Originally, the lawsuit was filed in November 1993 on behalf of 30,000 Ecuadorians against Texaco Inc. (now the Chevron Corp.) in the New York District Court. Then as now the plaintiffs alleged that Texaco used substandard technology during the 25 years of its Amazonian operations, leaving the region strewn with toxic wastes and endangering local people. In August 2002, the U.S. Appellate Court ruled that the case be tried in Ecuador. The Ecuadorian trial began in October 2003. My evolving research project analyzes the lawsuit and its history from three different angles--critical legal studies and corporate law, science studies and epidemiology, and studies of networks and transnational social movements.


Recent Publications
2004 Crude Chronicles: Indigenous Politics, Multinational Oil, and Neoliberalism in Ecuador. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

2012 The Politics of Resource Extraction: Indigenous Peoples, Corporations and the State, Suzana Sawyer and Terence Gomez, eds. London, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.

Articles and Book Chapters

2015 “Crude Contamination: Law, Science, and Indeterminacy in Ecuador and Beyond” in Subterranean Estates: Life Worlds of Oil and Gas, Hannah Appel, Arthur Mason, and Michael Watts, eds. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

2015    “On Legal Technique: Postscript to Disabling Corporate Sovereignty in a Transnational Lawsuit” Political and Legal Anthropology Review

2012 “The Corporation, Oil, and the Financialization of Risk.” American Ethnologist 39 (4): 710-715.

2010 "Human Energy" Dialectical Anthropology. 34 (1): 67-77.

2009 "'So That the World Can Know': Amazonians Take on Chevron" NACLA November: 46-49.

2009 "Suing ChevronTexaco" in Ecuador Reader: History, Culture, Politics, Steve Striffler and Carlos de la Torre eds. Durham: Duke University Press.

2008 Transnational Governmentality and Resource Extraction: Indigenous Peoples, Multinational Corporations, Multilateral Institutions, and the State.” With Terence Gomez. Programme Paper  #13. Geneva: UNRISD.

2007 "Empire/Multitude--State/Civil Society: Rethinking Topographies of Power through Transnational Connectivity in Ecuador and Beyond" Social Analysis. 51 (2): 64-85.

  • Reprinted: 2009. In Indigenous Peoples, Civil Society, and the Neo-Liberal State in Latin America, Edward F. Fisher, ed. Oxford: Berghahn Books.

2006 "Disabling Corporate Sovereignty in a Transnational Lawsuit" Political and Legal Anthropology Review. 29 (1): 23-43.

2004 "Crude Properties: The Sublime and Slime of Oil Operations in The Ecuadorian Amazon" in Property in Question: Value Transformation in the Global Economy, Katherine Verdery and Caroline Humphrey, eds. Oxford: Berg Publishers

2003 "Subterranean Techniques: Corporate Environmentalism, Oil Operations, and Social Injustice in the Ecuadorian Rain Forest" in In Search of the Rain Forest, Candace Slater ed. Duke University Press.

2002 "Bobbittizing Texaco: Dis-membering Corporate Capital and Re-membering the Nation in Ecuador" Cultural Anthropology. 17(2): 150-180.

2001 "Fictions of Sovereignty: Prosthetic Petro-Capitalism, Neoliberal States, and Phantom-Like Citizens in Ecuador" Journal of Latin American Anthropology. 6(1):156-197.

2000 "Environmental Orientalisms," with A. Agrawal, Cultural Critique. 45: 71-108.

1998 "Phantom Citizenship and the Prosthetics of Corporate Capital: ‘Maria Aguinda, et al. Versus Texaco Inc. USA.’" In Crossing Currents: Continuity and Change in Latin America, Michael Whiteford and Scott Whiteford, eds. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc.

1997 "The 1992 Indian Mobilization in Lowland Ecuador." Latin American Perspectives. Issue 93, 24 (3): 67-84.

1996 "Indigenous Initiatives and Petroleum Politics in the Ecuadorian Amazon." Cultural Survival Quarterly. 20(1): 26-30.