Applied Anthropology in Ecuador: Development Practice and Discourse


  • Jorge E. Uquillas,

  • Pilar Larreamendy


Applied anthropology in Ecuador has been influenced by both global and local contexts, particularly the development paradigms which have been in fashion in the last four or five decades and the political orientation and consequent academic curriculum of universities offering academic training in this field. Using the concept of “localized modernities,” this chapter analyzes how anthropology has contributed to the development process in Ecuador, a country characterized by a great social and cultural diversity. Responding to official efforts to build a unified nation-state and to integrate indigenous peoples under the banner of “indigenism,” the practice of anthropology in the country initially focused on learning about the socioeconomic and cultural characteristics of indigenous communities and helping them to access some basic public goods and services. However, in more recent times, as a result of a changing international context favorable to the recognition of indigenous peoples rights and to the high degree of social organizations and mobilization of indigenous peoples, anthropologist have adapted their discourse and practice, largely becoming allies of indigenous peoples in their efforts not only to maintain their own cultures but also to participate in the political process. The case of PRODEPINE is presented as an example of how applied social scientists have contributed to strengthen indigenous peoples' social organization, as well as to improve their access to land and territories and key financial resources.