Natalia’s research focuses on the organisational and institutional developments that are taking place in contemporary Western Amazonia and on the forms of social and moral learning that mediate these developments. In broader terms, she aims to understand the nexus between changing forms of social organisation and self-formation, by asking what ideas of self and society spread with the development of novel institutions and allow (or hinder) the spread of particular institutional forms. She has carried out research on forms of livelihood and politics outside of the influence of market and state institutions; on relations between indigenous social movements and the state, vernacular democracy, social learning (formal and informal), and childhood. She is a regional specialist of Latin America, with particular focus on lowland South America.
Natalia’s doctoral thesis, ‘The attraction of unity: power, knowledge, and community among the Shuar of Ecuadorian Amazonia’ (2016), was based on long-term ethnographic fieldwork in south-eastern Ecuador within a network of forest sedentary communities. The thesis explores how a group of Amazonian indigenous people, who have historically prioritised domestic self-sufficiency, social fluidity and confrontation, act creatively to institute new forms of centralised political association, peaceful dispute-settlement, and entrepreneurship. The thesis is thus a contribution to the anthropology of socioeconomic change, the anthropology of collective action and political values, as well as to the concrete topics of village formation, education and the rise of inequality, and moral dilemmas of hierarchy and egalitarianism. In the monograph she’s currently writing, she will explore further the relationship between village formation, the political economy of knowledge and the reconfiguration of distributive and deliberative practices in indigenous Amazonia.
Natalia gained a BA in Anthropology and Ethnology at the University of Siena (Italy) and trained in Anthropology of Learning and Cognition (MSc) at LSE, leading to the completion of her PhD in 2016. She has also participated in the development of collaborative university curricula for intercultural higher education and taught in various bilingual indigenous-led educational projects in Ecuador. Natalia has been the recipient of a number of grants, including the Alfred Gell Studentship and the Firth Prize by the LSE Department of Anthropology. Her research has been funded by the Newby Trust and the Legs Lelong (CNRS France).
Natalia’s current research is part of a collaboratively ERC-funded project headed by Dr Harry Walker entitled ‘Justice, Morality, and the State’. The team’s overall objective is to investigate the social, cultural and cognitive bases of justice, with a focus on the indigenous peoples of Western Amazonia. Her contribution to the project builds on her study of economic and politico-ritual transformation, dispute management, and the construction of inequality in Shuar (Jivaro) sedentary communities. Through an array of ethnographic and experimental methods and with particular attention to children’s moral development, she will study how ideas of fairness, rule-based conflict settlement and impartiality become grounded in ever more formalised modes of collective life, specifically in centralised forms of cooperation and learning.