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Liberal Arts Engagement Hub


ACLS Emerging Voices Fellowships program


University of Minnesota

PhD Field of Study

PhD, Anthropology, Washington University in St. Louis

Dissertation Abstract

“Subjectivities of Struggle: Inscriptions of Violence and Refusal on the ‘Cuerpo Territorio’ of Peru’s Defensoras”

Subjectivities of Struggle: Inscriptions of Violence and Refusal on the ‘Cuerpo Territorio’ of Peru’s Defensoras calls into question the colonial assumptions underpinning contemporary understandings of extractivism. The sixteen months of ethnographic research I conducted with the defensoras (women ecoterritorial defenders) of Cajamarca is situated at the fraught extractive frontier where social conflict paralyzed the expansion of a large-scale mining project and generated a coalitional struggle against extractive-led economic development.
This dissertation conceptualizes extractivism as a modern/colonial product of power and knowledge that has feminized the land and inhabitants from the time of the European invasion of the Americas. While recent research on mining and extractivism focuses on corporate-state-community relations and the materiality of “natural resources,” in this project I investigate how extractivism becomes inscribed on the cuerpo territorio (body-territory), a notion derived from Indigenous and Latin American feminisms which posits that the corporeal (human) body and geospatial territory are acted upon and subjugated by the same heteropatriarchal capitalist regimes of power. By treating the modalities of gendered state violence at the extractive frontier as indicative of an “extractive security state,” this research reveals the operation of state techniques that intensify the reterritorialization of women’s bodies and the land. Within this context, defensoras nonetheless exercise agentive power within the sociopolitical conditions that have given shape to a masculine terrain of ecoterritorial politics in northern highland Peru. This dissertation argues that defensoras’ political praxis, including practices of autonomy and public leadership, enacts important critiques of capitalist patriarchy.