Chris Melvin (Yale), “Breaking Refuge: Oil and the Politics of Integration on an Indigenous Resource Frontier, 1931-1972”

Wednesday, February 6, 2019
4:00 PM - 5:00 PM
McClellan Hall, Room 101

Scholars from across a variety of fields in the humanities and social sciences have examined conflicts over the extraction of natural resources in indigenous areas of modern Latin America. Many of these accounts, however, focus on the neoliberal era. This paper seeks to expand the existing historical literature on resource conflicts into an earlier period of state-making in peripheral and geographically-challenging regions of the Western Hemisphere beginning prior to World War II. It does so by examining the discursive and material transformations involved in the integration of the Barí people, an indigenous society that gained notoriety for their fierce resistance to petroleum exploitation along the border between Colombia and Venezuela during the first half of the twentieth century. It will argue that efforts to integrate and develop indigenous peoples like the Barí emerged as a direct response to frontier dynamics beginning prior to World War II in which new innovations in medicine and aviation combined with new economic incentives to push states and foreign capital into increasingly remote and challenging tropical environments.

Chris is second-year PhD student in Latin American and environmental history at Yale University currently working on the history of development and indigenous politics in twentieth-century Latin America. 

This event is part of the Yale Environmental History Spring 2019 Graduate Student Workshop Series.

To attend and request a copy of the pre-circulated chapter manuscript, please email