Representative Bodies presences the women of AMUPAKIN on an international, diplomatic stage, for the debut of the new Urban Agenda. With these Amazonian Kichwa midwives as collaborators, we designed official appearances across multiple formats: an act of peaceful protest, a publication, a conversation and act of live drawing, and a space of economic exchange--all efforts to assert an image of an indigenous, feminine, rural identity at the UN-Habitat III Conference in Quito, Ecuador.


UN-Habitat's "New Urban Agenda," and the conference convened in Quito to implement it, supposedly sought to include minority voices (including indigenous and women actors) within the space of the city. While UN-Habitat III's New Urban Agenda makes commitments to explore the power of the city as a sustainable entity, it does not question the city's presence as something that engenders, inter alia, the destruction of all those other habitats it depends upon for survival. In the processes of extractivism, logging, burning, and colonizing other territories, city-creation also isolates the ways of thinking and being of those who live in the affected territories. Representative Bodies attempts to situate the concerns and actions of the affected individuals within the center of the UN's programing and discourse.

UN-Habitat's agenda does not just attempt to produce the urban through the construction of space; it also reproduces the urban through the design and re-design of the city-asmedia: the urban is generated through documents, photos, event statements, news releases, exhibitions, pavilions, libraries. This production, where the city and its constituents find expression, is simultaneously a production of invisibility for those “other habitats”: forms of social and political organization, sociality, and environmental cultivation that fall outside of this predominantly western model.Therefore, an effective intervention must also entail intervening within each of these forms.

The UN-Habitat Conference claimed to invite the participation of these "affected peoples," but an analysis of the design of the conference reveals the many ways minority actors were excluded from participation. UN-Habitat might extend an invitation to groups it claims to advocate for, but a structural barrier to entry like cost undoes any such attempt at broad inclusion. For example, the cost of a singular meal--$15--within the fenced-off area of the conference was equivalent to a one-month salary for the women we work with. By contrast, a three-course meal outside the conference is $2.50. The minimum cost to participate in the exhibition was $4000, an unimaginable fee for AMUPAKIN. The process of applying for space gave priority to those with wealth rather than to the under-represented.

A significant aspect of our project thus took the form of sponsorship. The design intent in each facet of the project was to give presence to a population and concept of life and development the UN has overlooked: in this case, the inhabitation and design of the rainforest as an autonomy-generating practice. Within and around the space of the conference, each appearance showcased AMUPAKIN's knowledge of indigenous birthing, healing, and cultivation practices undertaken in the Amazonian rainforest for centuries.


As architects and advocates, we submitted this publication to UNHabitat's "urban library" to explore the tensions, rifts, and fissures between key institutions within the UN system, NGOs, governments, local municipalities, community organizations and coalitions -- specifically women and indigenous minority groups. These are the agonisms that necessarily confront the UN's attempts to implement a universalist concept of "Habitat."

The text further calls attention to the kinds of invisibilities that are produced by the UN through its perpetual reproduction of a Western dispositif. We question what other kinds of power distributions--those formed through centuries long development and lesser known languages, other socialities, convivialities, semiotic registers, and ritual engagement with the non-human--may exist as a basis for other sustainable futures and more sustainable pasts. Namely, we look to the concept of Sumak Kawsay and its political history, as developed by the Kichwa of Ecuador (not the concept further re-branded by the state of Ecuador) as one model of proven successful sustainable development.

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