The Cultural Diversity of Ecuador

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Course Information
Terms offered: 
Language of instruction: 
Contact Hours: 

Previous coursework in Anthropology or Sociology or permission of instructor.


From a critical standpoint, this course analyzes Ecuadorian cultural diversity. There will be several approaches: historical, theoretical and ethnographical to give a holistic focus on cultural processes and cultures of this region. The ultimate objective of the course is to provide with tools to interpret critically the current and complex Andean reality.

Main questions

  • How does history relates to cultural diversity in our contemporary society (specifically in Ecuador)?
  • How does ethnography help understand cultural diversity in the Andean societies?
  • What are the multiple ways to interpret diverse cultural practices in Ecuador?
Learning outcomes: 

At the end of the course the student will:

  • Identify and assess the cultural diversity in Ecuador.
  • Have a theoretical explanation about cultural diversity and its background.
  • Develop a critical point of view to interpret Ecuadorian cultural reality.
Method of presentation: 
  • Lectures with discussion
  • Student presentations
  • Guest speakers
Required work and form of assessment: 
  • Mid term Exam - 20%
  • 2 Research Projects - 30 %
  • Final Paper - 25 %
  • Class participation - 20 %
  • Field trip - 5%

Mid Term Exam
From the readings and class discussions, there will be analytical questions to be answered in a short essay. There will be a complete explanation and review in class.

Research Projects and presentations
The students will present two topics throughout the semester. First, he/she will research on a historical topic. Second, he/she will research and present on contemporary problems/issues of Ecuadorian reality. The presentation will be 10 minutes long. The student will ask two discussion questions for her/his classmates. Research ability and quality, relevance and creativity will be assessed.

Final Paper
This paper will show how well the student analyzes from a critical point of view contemporary Ecuadorian reality/issues. It is a written paper 10 pp. long.

The paper should include:

  • Scholar sources (5, minimum)
  • Theories and/or History
  • Interviews
  • Participant Observation
  • Analysis

The topic will be selected in agreement with the teacher. Details and a complete explanation will be given in class.

Class participation
Students will be expected to participate in class discussion, contribute to debates and activities, treat others with respect, and complete class assignments.

Unit Week Session Readings & Content

I. History: Pre- Incas, Incas and Spaniards

Week 1
  • Class introductions
  • VIdeo: first aboriginal people in America
Week 2
  • Espinosa, Carlos. Historia del Ecuador. Barcelona: Lexus, pp. 91-126.
  • Video: Inca society 
Weeks 3-4
  • Oberem, Udo, “El período incaico en el Ecuador”, en Nueva historia del Ecuador. Vol. 1, CEN, Quito, 1983, pp. 136-166.
  • Video: Spanish conquest. 
  • Salomón, Frank, “Crisis y transformación de las sociedad aborigen invadida”, en Nueva Historia del Ecuador, CEN, Quito, 1983, pp. 95-120.
II. Andean Indigenous Populations Week 5 Indigenous Political Movement
  • Tuaza, Luis Alberto, Runakunaka ashka shaikushka shinami rikurinkuna  ñamana
  • tandanakunata munankunachu. La crisis del movimiento indígena ecuatoriano, FLACSO, Quito, 2011, pp. 121-202.
Week 6
  • Martí i Puig, Salvador, “Etnicidad, movimientos sociales y protesta. ¿Cómo interpretar la movilización y la política indígena en el siglo XXI?”, Latin American Research Review, Vol. 49, No. 1, 2014, pp. 241-250.
  • Lalander, Rickard y Ospina, Pablo, “Movimiento indígena y revolución ciudadana en Ecuador”, Cuestiones Políticas, Vol. 28. Nº 48, enero-junio 2012, pp. 13-50.
Weeks 7-8 Sumak Kawsay: Analysis and critics.
  • Villalba, Unai (2013), “Buen Vivir versus Development: a paradigm shift in the Andes?”, Third World Quarterly, 34:8, 1427-1442.
  • Viola, Andreu, “Discursos “pachamamistas” versus políticas desarrollistas: el debate sobre el sumak kawsay en los Andes”, Íconos. Revista de Ciencias Sociales. Nº48, Quito, enero 2014, pp. 55-72.
  • Vega, Silvia, “El orden de género en el sumak kawsay y el suma qamaña. Un vistazo a los debates actuales en Bolivia y Ecuador”, Íconos. Revista de Ciencias Sociales. Nº48, Quito, enero 2014, pp. 73-91.
  • Manosalvas, Margarita, “Buen vivir o sumak kawsay. En busca de nuevos referenciales para la acción pública en Ecuador”, Íconos. Revista de Ciencias Sociales. Nº49, Quito, mayo 2014, pp. 101-121.
Week 9
  • Sieder, Rachel, “The Challenge of Indigenous Legal Systems. Beyond Paradigms of Recognition”, Brown Journal of World Affairs, Spring/Summer 2012, Volume xviii, Issue 11, pp. 113.
III. Mestizo Groups Weeks 10-11
  • Leinaweaver, Jessica, “Toward an Anthropology of Ingratitude: Notes from Andean Kinship”, Comparative Studies in Society and History 2013; 55(3):554–578.
  • Pallares, Amalia, “Ecuadorian Immigrants and symbolic nationalism in Chicago”, Latino Studies, 2005, 3, (347–371).
  • Video: Prometeo Deportado.
IV. Afrodescendants Week 12
  • Hooker, Juliet, “Indigenous Inclusion/Black Exclusion: Race, Ethnicity and Multicultural Citizenship in Latin America”, Journal of Latin American Studies, Vol. 37, Nº2 (Mayo, 2005), pp. 285-310.
  • Pérez, Gustavo. 2011. Todos somos afrodescendientes. Quito: Academia Nacional de Historia. Páginas 193-259.
V. The Amazon Weeks 13-15
  • Hammer, Jintiach, Tsakimp, “Practical developments in law science and policy: efforts to protect the traditional group knowledge and practices of the Shuar, an indigenous people of the Ecuadorian Amazon”, Policy Sciences (2013) 46:125–141.
  • Nagan, Winston, “Protecting the economic patrimony of indigenous nations: the case of the Shuar”, Policy Sciences (2013) 46:143–159.
  • Bremner, Bilsborrow, Feldacker & Holt, “Fertility beyond the frontier: indigenous women, fertility, and reproductive practices in the Ecuadorian Amazon”, Population Environment, (2009) 30: 93–113.
  • Video: Crudo
Final Weeks 16-17
  • Presentations (Research Project 2).
  • Final Paper due.