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.