Foucault in the forest: Questioning environmentality in Amazonia

by Michael Cepek

In this article, I analyze the encounter between the Field Museum of Natural History and Amazonian Ecuador's Cofán people to question the concept of “environmentality”: the idea that environmentalist programs and movements operate as forms of governmentality in Michel Foucault's sense. I argue that, although the Field Museum's community conservation projects constitute a regulatory rationale and technique, they do not transform Cofán subjectivity according to plan. By exploring Cofán people's critical consciousness of environmentalist interventions, I aim to cast doubt on the governmentality paradigm's utility for analyzing the complexities of cultural difference, intercultural encounter, and directed change.