Date of Award

Spring 5-22-2023

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies (MAIS)



First Advisor

Ana María Durán Calisto

Second Advisor

Keller Easterling


To effectively challenge the policies of extraction implemented by late liberal regimes, the Waorani communities from Upper Amazon have devised spatial strategies to defend their traditional territory. By re-examining the concept of the contact zone and unfolding settler and Indigenous literature, spatialities, and worldviews, this thesis suggests the concept of forest Clearings as a means to explore spatial forms of endurance.

Clearings emerge within the Amazon in sites where encounters between divergent worldviews embody otherwise modes of existence. Through a series of fieldwork reflections, these Clearings are perceived as spaces where ontological negotiations are more likely to occur, strategies of enduring exhaustion are nurtured, and forms of dominance rattle.

Central to this work is the ambition of a Waorani member to establish a Museo Vivo, or a living museum, in the Amazon forest. Unpacking the intertwined histories of museums as hegemonic infrastructures that facilitate extractive colonial projects in the region, this work examines the appropriation of the museum as a trap to ensnare and redirect our attention toward a more pressing matter: the defense of Waorani ancestral territory. In essence, opening a Clearing to foster alternative life forms capable of sustaining a stubborn refusal to collapse.

This thesis invites us to acknowledge our agency as researchers, architects, and artists when navigating projects with local communities, like the Waorani. The work proposes that assuming responsibility as active agents within the social ecology of Clearings—embracing the condition of being "seen seen" by one another—gives rise to new collaborative practices and ontological exchanges.