The State, Corporations and Oil: Exploring the Manifestations of Sovereignty through the development of the Petroleum Industry in Ecuador since 1972
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Mateos Rodríguez, Pablo
In 1972, oil was first produced in the Ecuadorian Amazon region of el Oriente. This region, sparsely populated by indigenous communities, was found to contain the largest oil reserves in Ecuador. That same year, Ecuador witnessed a military coup, and seven years later the military dictatorship was replaced by democratic rule, with governments progressively adopting neoliberal political ideologies. This changing political landscape was reflected in the oil policies pursued, and in the varying attitudes towards foreign oil corporations. This dissertation examines how it is in this context, in the oil-rich disputed land of el Oriente, and throughout Ecuador’s turbulent political environment, that the notion of sovereignty was repeatedly used by the state to justify their oil policies, critique those policies pursued by past regimes and constantly portray the idea that sovereignty must be protected. Traditionally, this notion of sovereignty has been attributed with the meaning of embodying the legitimate claim to final and ultimate authority; as an inherent quality of the state. By following the story of oil development in Ecuador through three different governments, and their interaction with both corporations and indigenous communities, this dissertation aims to challenge these traditional understandings of sovereignty. Through an analysis of the practices employed by each government regarding the governing of oil resources, namely their policies, laws and discourse, this dissertation suggests that the notion of sovereignty must be constantly performed and communicated, in order for the idea of sovereignty to take shape and gain presence. Thus, this dissertation reveals how it is through these practices, that the Ecuadorian State actively constructs and gives meaning to the notion of sovereignty, in order to establish its own legitimacy to rule.
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