The Indigenous Movement in Ecuador as Decolonial Actor: A Concept-Centered Analysis of its Discourse

Philipp Altmann (
Institute for Latin American Studies,
April, 2013
Philipp Altmann, studies in sociology, cultural anthropology and Spanish philology at the University of Trier and the Autonomous University Madrid. Finished his doctorate in sociology at the Free University of Berlin in 2013 with a work on the decolonial aspects of the discourse of the indigenous movement in Ecuador. Since March 2015 professor for sociological theory at the Universidad Central del Ecuador.
Areas of interest are: indigenous movements, social movements, identity, discourse analysis.


Since its beginnings in the 1920s, the Ecuadorean indigenous movement has been shaped by competition and occasional cooperation between its member organizations, especially regarding the actions and the discourse or ideology of the movement. Since a Sattelzeit between the mid-1970s and the mid-1980s, a discourse formed that combines identitarian with classist positions and is built around the political concepts of indigenous nationality, territoriality, plurinationality, interculturality, and good life. The development of this discourse is also defined by a competition between different organizations within the indigenous movement. For instance, the concept of interculturality was introduced in 1995 by a smaller organization as a counter-concept against plurinationality. Similarly, the concept of good life was introduced in 2002 by a local organization and is primarily concerned with nature and petroleum production. Despite the plurality of discourses, CONAIE, the most important organization of the movement, was able to integrate these counter-concepts into a coherent discourse. Since 1988, this coherent discourse has been presented to society and the state on several occasions. Because of its rejection of discrimination, oppression, and inequality--all of which are part of the colonial structure of Ecuadorean society--this discourse can be understood as a decolonial one, in which different concepts treat different aspects of coloniality and advocate resistance to it.