Professor of Anthropology (on leave 2018-19)
James Dolliver / NEH Distinguished Professor
Latin American Studies & Global Development Studies
I am a cultural anthropologist whose work focuses on the intersection between development and identity politics in Central America. I am especially interested in the role that gender, class, race, and ethnic difference play in shaping people's identities and relations to/within transnational communities and development projects. I have been conducting ethnographic fieldwork on these issues in Central America and the US since 1995.
My first book, Ethnic Entrepreneurs: Identity and Development Politics in Latin America (2010, Stanford U Press) examines the work of Guatemalan indigenous development organizations and UN-sponsored projects with Latinos in the United States to show how, during the 1990s, 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.
My current research takes up the question of identity politics and development within a new era of trans-Pacific relations. Based on ethnographic research in Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Guatemala, Transpacific Developments: The Politics of China and Chineseness in Central America intervenes in conversations about a rising "China threat" in Latin America to explore the different forms and meanings that China has taken in the region as a development actor. In particular, this book analyzes the diverse impacts of mainland China, Taiwan, and the Chinese diaspora in Central American politics.
Hear more about my work and this project on the 2017 Puget Sound podcast: "What We Do."
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.