Dr Natalia Buitron

Dr Natalia Buitron

Visiting fellow

Department of Anthropology

English, Spanish
Key Expertise
Latin America and Amazonia

About me

Natalia’s research explores political subjectivities in indigenous South America, specifically how broader political and economic forms interweave with moral selfhood, sociality and religion in daily life. She has carried out research on forms of livelihood, work, and leadership outside of the influence of market and state institutions; on relations between indigenous social movements, missionaries, and the state; vernacular democracy; formal and informal education and childhood. She is a regional specialist of Latin America, with particular focus on Greater Amazonia.

Building on her doctoral research, her book project titled ‘Indigenous Development: Territorial Autonomy and Vernacular Statecraft in Millennial Amazonia’ explores the remaking of indigenous landscapes and institutions in articulation with the modern state. Based on 24 months of ethnographic research, it analyses the challenges faced by Shuar indigenous people living in the rainforest of southeastern Ecuador, after their relocation in sedentary villages and their appropriation of schooling, salaried work, and state-sponsored entrepreneurship schemes. She shows how this form of incorporation into the state is premised on racialised ideologies of development and citizenship, and how indigenous peoples redeploy state tools to create alternative lifestyles and systems of governance.

Natalia’s current research is part of a collaboratively ERC-funded project ‘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 political values, village formation and socioeconomic transformation in Ecuadorian Amazonia. She is exploring the role of moral emotions, and in particular ‘care’, for indigenous modes of justice, while advancing a constructive critique of multicultural governance and postcolonial thinking in Latin America.

 She is also interested and has written about the indigenous uses of scholarly and autobiographical writing, and the paradoxes of state-sponsored patrimonializing and intercultural educational projects. Her upcoming research project focuses on the Amazonian branch of the Pachakutik indigenous movement in Ecuador, one of the strongest indigenous social movements in Latin America, and specifically the involvement of women in this movement. She hopes to elucidate the radically different ethical projects and views of sovereignty that are emerging at the crossroads of feminist, autonomist, and environmentalist projects in post-socialist Ecuador.

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. Natalia is deeply interested in critical/collaborative pedagogy and has participated in the development of indigenous-led educational programmes and knowledge exchange projects in Latin America and Europe. She 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, the Legs Lelong (CNRS France) and the European Research council (ERC).

Since 2014, Natalia has taught courses in Kinship, Sex and Gender; Economic Anthropology; Childhood; Anthropology and Media; and Graduate Research Evidence and Methods.

Expertise Details

Latin America and Amazonia: state formation; indigenous social movements; development; race/ethnicity; labour and gender; morality and justice; socialisation and schooling; writing; egalitarianism and cooperation.


Journal Articles 

2020. ‘Autonomy, Productiveness and Community: The Rise of Inequality in an Amazonian Society’. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 26(1), accepted July 2019. 

2019. An Indigenous Writing Boom: Cultural Experts and the Creation of a Scholarly Tradition’. Tipití: Journal of the Society for the Anthropology of Lowland South America, 16(2), accepted March 2018, online at http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/101439/. 

2019 (with Gregory Deshoulliere). ‘Singularity on the Margins: Autobiographical Decolonial Writings among the Shuar of Ecuadorian Amazonia’. Tipití: Journal of the Society for the Anthropology of Lowland South America, 16(2), accepted March 2018. 

2019 (with Rita Astuti and Gregory Deshoulliere). ‘Exchange and Co-production of Knowledge: Reflections from Amazonia’. Anthropology of this Century, 24. 

2017. ‘On Desiring and Resisting the State’. Anthropology of this Century, 18, online.

Book Chapters

2016. ‘Paths to the Unfamiliar: Journeying with Children in Ecuadorian Amazonia’. In Children: Anthropological Encounters, Catherine Allerton (ed.). London: Bloomsbury Press, pp. 45-58. 

2014. ‘“La pedagogía del Arutam” o Notas Etnográficas sobre la producción académica Shuar en torno a la “cultura”’ [‘The Pedagogy of Arutam or Ethnographic Notes on Shuar Academic Production on “Culture”’]. In On documents, Cristina Burneo Salazar (ed.), Quito: Universidad San Francisco de Quito, pp. 181-194.

Book Review

2013. (with Gregory Deshoulliere). Book Review of Anne-Gaël Bilhaut and Silvia Macedo (eds.) 2012. Tradition, Writing and Patrimonialization. Quito: Abya-Yala. Tipití: Journal of the Society for the Anthropology of Lowland South America, 11/1, pp. 107-109.