Professor, Sociology and Anthropology and Director, Global-Development Studies
I am a cultural anthropologist who studies the cultural politics of economic development in Central America. I am especially interested in the role that gender, class, race and ethnic difference play in defining the actors, processes, and outcomes of development projects, both locally and globally. I have been conducting ethnographic fieldwork in Central America for over 20 years, more recently focusing on China-Central America relations in particular.
Based on ethnographic research in Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Guatemala, Transpacific Developments: The Politics of China and Chineseness in Central America (forthcoming, Cornell University Press) explores the different forms that China--including the People’s Republic of China, Taiwan, and local Chinese diaspora--has taken in the region and how these multiple forms are reshaping the nature and stakes of local development.
Hear more about my work and this project on the 2017 Puget Sound podcast: "What We Do."
My first book, Ethnic Entrepreneurs: Identity and Development Politics in Latin America (2010, Stanford U Press) examined the work of Guatemalan indigenous development organizations and UN-sponsored projects with Latinos in the United States to show how both states and international institutions embraced community-based actors as the ideal agents of neoliberal development. While these same actors had historically been perceived as obstacles to economic development, I demonstrate how their ethnic identity, culture, and translocal communities were reframed as valuable tools for regional development, with contradictory results.
2018 "The Impact of Chinese Anti-Corruption Policies in Costa Rica: Emerging Entrepreneurialisms." Journal of Latin American Geography, Special Issue "New Geographies of China and Latin American Relations," Julie Klinger and Tom Narins, eds. 17(2):167-190.
2018 "China-Costa Rica Infrastructure Projects: Laying the Groundwork for Development?" In Building Development for a New Era: China’s Infrastructure Projects in Latin America and the Caribbean," Enrique Dussel Peters, Ariel Armony and Shoujun Cui, eds. Mexico City, MX: Asian Studies Center, Center for International Studies, University of Pittsburgh and Red Académica de América Latina y el Caribe sobre China, pp. 3-23.
2018 “Who Speaks for China? Translating Geopolitics through Language Schools in Costa Rica." Journal of Chinese Overseas, Special Edition on China in Africa and Latin America, Yoon Jung Park, ed. 13(2)180-204.
2017 “Chino Tico Routes and Repertoires: Cultivating Chineseness and Entrepreneurism for a New Era of Transpacific Relations” The Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology. Special Issue on “Entrepreneurship, Artisans and Traders: The Remaking of China-Latin American Economies,” Julia Mueller and Rudi Colloredo-Mansfeld, eds. (Early View online April 6, 2017).
2015 “Costa Rica’s Chinatown: The Art of Being Global in the Age of China,” City & Society, 27(2).
2012 "Re-modeling the Global Development Landscape: The China Model and South- South Cooperation in Latin America,” Third World Quarterly, 33(7):1359-1375.
Ethnic Entrepreneurs: Identity and Development Politics in Latin America (2010) Stanford: Stanford University Press.
Press (quoted in)
- "A Tale of Two Dragons: China and Taiwan’s Rising Clout in Central America," The Sydney Morning Herald, May 25, 2018.
- (NOTE: Portions of the interview originally gathered for and appearing in this article were reprinted without my participation or consent in a Taipei Times editorial on June 3, 2018.)