Associate Professor of Anthropology
Ph.D. University of
B.A. New Mexico State University, 1987
My dissertation research
concerned changing sensibilities of self, ethnicity, class, community, and religion
(Catholic and Protestant) in a Yucatec Maya community in Mexico as within one
generation, villagers shifted from subsistence agriculture to participation in
the global capitalist economy through international tourism and offshore
manufacturing. The research extends theories of practice and embodiment
to the Weberian question of the relationship between capitalism and
Protestantism. Theoretically, the work reveals the contradictions in
capitalism—the tug-of-war between alienated labor and class consciousness—as
well as the potential and limits of religious traditions in easing these
A subsequent project followed up the relationship between global economic networks and local class identities, but in the city of Cancún. I investigated circulatory migration between rural Yucatán and Cancún, the development of working-class neighborhoods in the tourist city, and how settlers have formed grassroots social movements to petition the state and local governments for basic public works and services. In these political processes, settlers are negotiating and articulating ideas about class, citizenship, human rights, and democracy.
My current project continues with the theme of global economic expansion, but considers collaboration and conflict between transnational companies and colonial governments and the consequences for local people. In the thousands, Yucatec Maya fled the destruction of the Caste War (1847-1901), moving southward into the fledgling colony of British Honduras (Belize), whose government in the 19th-20th centuries was dominated by British logging interests. My oral history interviews relating to the early twentieth century reveal a complicated three-way relationship between the Maya refugees, the colonial government, and one logging company, the Belize Estate and Produce Company, which came to own one-fifth of the land of the colony and exerted enormous influence over the colonial government. Under 19th century law (a pattern which persisted into the 20th century), “Indians” could not own land, and so they had to live on company lands, occasionally work for the company, and sell agricultural goods to pay for the rent on the house plots and fields. When slash-and-burn farming methods threatened mahogany stands in 1936, company and colonial agents forcibly evicted the people of San José and burned the village. Evictees were removed to cramped army barracks where unknown numbers died, and then placed on a reserve in a malarial zone of sandy soils and brackish water. That eviction has become a defining event in their lives, identities, and political views.
I also incorporate community-based research into a number of my courses, including with international refugees, urban community revitalization initiatives, and the local foods movement. My students and I created the www.rochestereatslocal.org website out of some of this work.
2012 A God for the Poor: Folk Catholicism and Social Justice among the Yucatec Maya. In: The Wiley-Blackwell Companion to Religion and Social Justice. Michael D. Palmer and Stanley M. Burgess, eds. Pp. 373-385. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell.
2007 Women as Border in the Shadow of Cancún. Anthropology Today 23 (4): 17–21.
2007 A Practice Approach to Ritual: Catholic Enactment of Community in Yucatán. Anthropos 102 (2): 531-545.
2006 Resistance to What? How?: Stalled Social Movements in Cancun. City and Society 18 (1): 66-89.
2006 Review of Competitive Spirits: Latin America’s New Religious Economy, by R. Andrew Chesnut. Ethnohistory 53 (3): 630-632.
2005 The Sense of Tranquility: Bodily Practice and Ethnic Classes in Yucatán. Ethnology 44 (4): 337-355.
2005 Commentary on ‘A Standoffish Priest and Sticky Catholics: Questioning the Religious Marketplace in Tzintzuntzan, Mexico’, by Peter S. Cahn.” Journal of Latin American Anthropology 10 (1): 38-41.
2004 The Summer Institute of Linguistics and the Politics of Bible Translation in Mexico: Convergence, Appropriation, and Consequence. In Pluralizing Ethnography: Comparison and Representation in Maya Cultures, Histories, and Identities. John M. Watanabe and Edward F. Fischer, eds. Pp. 95-125. Santa Fe: School of American Research Press.
2001 The Pentecostal Re-Formation of Self: Opting for Orthodoxy in Yucatán. Ethos 29 (4): 395-429.
2002 Review of The Book of Chilam Balam of Na, edited by Ruth Gubler and David Bolles. Ethnohistory 49 (2): 422-424.
2000 Review of Infelicities: Representations of the Exotic, by Peter Mason. Ethnohistory 47 (2): 510-512.
1999 Review of Tracing the Veins: Of Copper, Culture, and Community from Butte to Chuquicamata, by Janet L. Finn. American Ethnologist 26 (4): 1025-1026.
1999 Review of Mexican Rural Development and the Plumed Serpent: Technology and Maya Cosmology in the Tropical Forest of Campeche, Mexico, by Betty Bernice Faust. In Ethnohistory 46 (2): 391-393.
- Global Economy and the Grassroots
- Immigration to the U.S.
- Culture and Politics in Latin America
- Cuisine, Culture, and Power
- Cultural Anthropology
- Qualitative Research
- Ritual and Performance
- Writing about Society and Culture