Decolonizing Law and expanding Human Rights: Indigenous Conceptions and the Rights of Nature in Ecuador

  • Juan José Guzmán European Inter-University Center for Human Rights and Democratisation
Keywords: human rights, neocolonialism, indigenous peoples, Amazonian nature ontologies, rights of nature


This article critically addresses the crucial aspects for understanding the rights of nature as a resistance platform for indigenous peoples in Ecuador. By basing my arguments in a post-colonial approach to human rights and the concept of coloniality of power, I argue that the lack of inclusion of indigenous knowledge in human rights is a manifestation of neocolonialism. Thus, the introduction of non-Western narratives into the human rights discourse/practice is an attempt to decolonize what has traditionally been a colonialist discourse. Later on, I develop the concept of ‘rights of nature’ arguing that they are a practical example of the inclusion of indigenous narratives in human rights. In the end, the biggest problem is that the dominant Western thought does not challenge the human-nature relationships that are responsible for nature’s degradation. In this regard, I use ethnographic material, post-colonial anthropological theory, and symbolic ecology to argue that Amazonian indigenous nature ontologies —which understand the nature/culture relationship in a very different way— are contained in the rights of nature that the Ecuadorian Constitution enshrines. Therefore, becoming a legal tool with a significant potential for indigenous people’s historical justice.

Received: 01 September 2019
Accepted: 05 December 2019
Published online: 20 December 2019


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How to Cite
Guzmán, Juan José. 2019. “Decolonizing Law and Expanding Human Rights: Indigenous Conceptions and the Rights of Nature in Ecuador”. Deusto Journal of Human Rights, no. 4 (December), 59-86.