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Penn Press at AAA 2023

A Feast of Flowers

A Feast of Flowers

Race, Labor, and Postcolonial Capitalism in Ecuador

by Christopher Krupa

12 illus.

  • Paperback
  • 9780812225129
  • Published: April 2022


  • Hardcover
  • 9780812253818
  • Published: April 2022



When Ecuador's cut-flower industry took off in the mid-1980s, it rode a wave of international credit peddling and currency speculation that would lead countries of the Global South into successive debt crises and northern financial firms to fortune and dominion. By the start of the twenty-first century, as the Ecuadorian economy collapsed and its ties with international finance became strained, flower exporters rebuilt their businesses around the profitability of their indigenous labor force, drawing local communities deeply into new plantation systems taking over the highlands.

In A Feast of Flowers, Christopher Krupa goes inside Ecuador's booming cut-flower industry to chronicle the ways its capitalist pioneers built a booming export industry around a racial ideology, turning indigenous people's purported differences into resources for industrial expansion. At the core of this racial system is a belief, central to postcolonial science and politics in Ecuador, in capitalism's unique capacity to change people's racial identity and to liberate oppressed populations from racial subordination. Krupa shows how such views not only guide how indigenous people are today incorporated into demanding labor systems in Ecuador's new export plantations, but also how indigenous minds and bodies became sites of study and intervention by scientists, politicians, and economic planners throughout the last century, all looking to change indigenous people in some way.

Combining nearly two decades of ethnographic and historical research, A Feast of Flowers shows how aggressive capitalist expansion in postcolonial contexts may revive longstanding intersections between race and economy to facilitate new modes of dispossession under the guise of humanitarian intervention.