To Build a Home: Informal Settlements and Environmental Inequality in Esmeraldas, Ecuador


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships




This dissertation is an ethnography of organizing strategies and daily life in a toxic informal settlement located next to a refinery in Ecuador. Drawing from social movement and environmental justice literature, it documents how various issues work in tandem, ultimately displacing the environment as a pressing matter. Through an understanding of why residents are organizing to formalize their ties to the toxic land, instead of making claims for mitigating exposure or relocation, the dissertation seeks to uncover the meaning that residents have attributed to this space. Drawing from 15 months of fieldwork, the project follows the resident’s day-to-day struggles to solve the problems of living in marginality and thus document if, when, and why environmental issues become salient or are normalized.