Reckoning with Harm
The Toxic Relations of Oil in Amazonia
280 Pages, 6.00 x 9.00 x 1.00 in, 20 b&w photos, 4 b&w illustrations, 2 maps
Sales Date: October 17, 2023
An ethnography of the Ecuadorian Amazon that demonstrates the need for a relational, place-based, contingent understanding of harm and toxicity.
Reckoning with Harm is a striking ethnographic analysis of the harm resulting from oil extraction. Covering fifty years of settler colonization and industrial transformation of the Ecuadorian Amazon, Amelia Fiske interrogates the relations of harm. She moves between forest-courtrooms and oily waste pits, farms and toxic tours, to explore both the ways in which harm from oil is entangled with daily life and the tensions surrounding efforts to verify and redress it in practice. Attempts to address harm from the oil industry in Ecuador have been consistently confounded by narrow, technocratic understandings of evidence, toxicity, and responsibility. Building on collaborators’ work to contest state and oil company insistence that harm is controlled and principally chemical in nature, Fiske shows that it is necessary to refigure harm as relational in order to reckon with unremediated contamination of the past while pushing for broad forms of accountability in the present. She theorizes that harm is both a relationship and an animating feature of relationships in this place, a contingent understanding that is needed to contemplate what comes next when living in a toxic world.
An empathetic and reflexive ethnography of the expansiveness of the socioenvironmental burdens—physical, emotional, generational—borne by peoples in the Ecuadorian Amazon because of the oil industry’s presence in the region. Recognizing the responsibility required to respectfully tell stories about harm, Fiske goes beyond technocratic explanations of regulatory science and law and instead traces the myriad relations through which harm is constituted and evaluated, intimately and expansively. In a search for larger truths that “open up” harm from narrow understandings of culpability and damage, Fiske moves toward a theory of relational accountability—a reckoning—that calls for collective acts of reparation, remediation, and justice.~Gabriela Valdivia, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, coauthor of Oil, Revolution, and Indigenous Citizenship in Ecuadorian Amazonia
In her agenda-setting study of oil’s transformation of Amazonian Ecuador, Amelia Fiske brilliantly demonstrates the power of medical anthropology and science studies by combining nuanced ethnography, textual analysis, and theoretical engagement to reveal the harms of industrial toxins as well as their scientific, legal, and regulatory concealment. For anyone interested in understanding the complex question of how we can become certain of the petroleum industry’s impacts on this planet and its peoples, Reckoning with Harm is an essential source that will guide scholarship, activism, and public debate for decades to come. ~Michael L. Cepek, University of Texas at San Antonio, author of Life in Oil: Cofán Survival in the Petroleum Fields of Amazonia
Reckoning with Harm disarms, revealing that the wounded worlds that issue from oil extraction are deeply relational. A keen ethnographer, Amelia Fiske demonstrates in moving prose how the unbounded, yet embodied, effects of oil operations on everyday lives confound techno-industrial-scientific logics that seek to contain contamination.~Suzana Sawyer, University of California, Davis, author of The Small Matter of Suing Chevron
- A Note on Transcriptions
- Oil: A Visual Glossary
- Introduction. Encountering Harm
- Chapter 1. Building a Life on the Aguarico
- Chapter 2. Evidence
- Chapter 3. Bounding Harm
- Chapter 4. Toxic Exposures
- Chapter 5. Touring Toxic Places
- Conclusion. Relations of the Aguarico-4 Well
- Epilogue: Una Masa Dura
- Works Cited
The publication of Reckoning with Harm was made possible by the support of the Environmental Studies Endowment (NEH).