Latin America and Caribbean Anthropology

Latin America and Caribbean Anthropology: Book Update

This post from October 2013 is part of a series on teaching Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology. Special thanks to Al West for book suggestions. Other posts in the series include:


Adoptive Migration: Raising Latinos in Spain, Jessaca B. Leinaweaver
Spain has one of the highest per capita international adoption rates in the world. Internationally adopted kids are coming from many of the same countries as do the many immigrants who are radically transforming Spain’s demographics. Based on interviews with adoptive families, migrant families, and adoption professionals, Jessaca B. Leinaweaver examines the experiences of Latin American children adopted into a rapidly multiculturalizing society. She focuses on Peruvian adoptees and immigrants in Madrid, but her conclusions apply more broadly, to any pairing of adoptees and migrants from the same country. Leinaweaver finds that international adoption, particularly in a context of high rates of transnational migration, is best understood as both a privileged and unusual form of migration, and a crucial and contested method of family formation. Adoptive Migration is a fascinating study of the implications for adopted children of growing up in a country that discriminates against their fellow immigrants.

The Archaeology of the Caribbean, Samuel M. Wilson
The Archaeology of the Caribbean is a comprehensive synthesis of Caribbean prehistory from the earliest settlement by humans more than 4000 years BC, to the time of European conquest of the islands, from the fifteenth through seventeenth centuries. Samuel Wilson reviews the evidence for migration and cultural change throughout the archipelago, dealing in particular with periods of cultural interaction when groups with different cultures and histories were in contact.

Comparative Arawakan Histories: Rethinking Language Family and Culture Area in Amazonia, Jonathan D. Hill and Fernando Santos-Granero (editors)
Before they were largely decimated and dispersed by the effects of European colonization, Arawak-speaking peoples were the most widespread language family in Latin America and the Caribbean, and they were the first people Columbus encountered in the Americas. “Comparative Arawakan Histories”, in paperback for the first time, examines social structures, political hierarchies, rituals, religious movements, gender relations, and linguistic variations through historical perspectives to document sociocultural diversity across the diffused Arawakan diaspora.

Governing Indigenous Territories: Enacting Sovereignty in the Ecuadorian Amazon, Juliet S. Erazo
Governing Indigenous Territories illuminates a paradox of modern indigenous lives. In recent decades, native peoples from Alaska to Cameroon have sought and gained legal title to significant areas of land, not as individuals or families but as large, collective organizations. Obtaining these collective titles represents an enormous accomplishment; it also creates dramatic changes. Once an indigenous territory is legally established, other governments and organizations expect it to act as a unified political entity, making decisions on behalf of its population and managing those living within its borders. A territorial government must mediate between outsiders and a not-always-united population within a context of constantly shifting global development priorities. The people of Rukullakta, a large indigenous territory in Ecuador, have struggled to enact sovereignty since the late 1960s. Drawing broadly applicable lessons from their experiences of self-rule, Juliet S. Erazo shows how collective titling produces new expectations, obligations, and subjectivities within indigenous territories.

Kings for Three Days: The Play of Race and Gender in an Afro-Ecuadorian Festival, Jean Muteba Rahier
With its rich mix of cultures, European influences, colonial tensions, and migration from bordering nations, Ecuador has long drawn the interest of ethnographers, historians, and political scientists. In this book, Jean Muteba Rahier delivers a highly detailed, thought-provoking examination of the racial, sexual, and social complexities of Afro-Ecuadorian culture, as revealed through the annual Festival of the Kings. During the Festival, the people of various villages and towns of Esmeraldas–Ecuador’s province most associated with blackness–engage in celebratory and parodic portrayals, often donning masks, cross-dressing, and disguising themselves as blacks, indigenous people, and whites, in an obvious critique of local, provincial, and national white, white-mestizo, and light-mulatto elites. Rahier shows that this festival, as performed in different locations, reveals each time a specific location’s perspective on the larger struggles over identity, class, and gender relations in the racial-spacial order of Esmeraldas, and of the Ecuadorian nation in general.

Maturing Masculinities: Aging, Chronic Illness, and Viagra in Mexico, Emily A. Wentzell
Maturing Masculinities is a nuanced exploration of how older men in urban Mexico incorporate aging, chronic illness, changing social relationships, and decreasing erectile function into their conceptions of themselves as men. It is based on interviews that Emily A. Wentzell conducted with more than 250 male patients in the urology clinic of a government-run hospital in Cuernavaca. Drawing on science studies, medical anthropology, and gender theory, Wentzell suggests the idea of “composite masculinities” as a paradigm for understanding how men incorporate physical and social change into gendered selfhoods. Erectile dysfunction treatments like Viagra are popular in Mexico, where stereotypes of men as sex-obsessed “machos” persist. However, most of the men Wentzell interviewed saw erectile difficulty as a chance to demonstrate difference from this stereotype. Rather than using drugs to continue youthful sex lives, many collaborated with wives and physicians to frame erectile difficulty as a prompt to embody age-appropriate, mature masculinities.

Minerals, Collecting, and Value across the US-Mexico Border, Elizabeth Emma Ferry
Elizabeth Emma Ferry traces the movement of minerals as they circulate from Mexican mines to markets, museums, and private collections on both sides of the US-Mexico border. She describes how and why these byproducts of ore mining come to be valued by people in various walks of life as scientific specimens, religious offerings, works of art, and luxury collectibles. The story of mineral exploration and trade defines a variegated transnational space, shedding new light on the complex relationship between these two countries and on the process of making value itself.

Of Cannibals and Kings: Primal Anthropology in the Americas, Neil L. Whitehead
Of Cannibals and Kings collects the very earliest accounts of the native peoples of the Americas, including selections from the descriptions of Columbus’s first two voyages; documents reflecting the initial colonial occupation in Haiti, Venezuela, and Guyana; and the first ethnographic account of the Taínos by the missionary Ramón Pané. This primal anthropology directly guided a rapacious discovery of the lands of both wild cannibals and golden kings.

The Oxford Handbook of Caribbean Archaeology, William F. Keegan, Corinne L. Hofman, Reniel Rodriguez Ramos (editors)
The Oxford Handbook of Caribbean Archaeology provides an overview of archaeological investigations in the insular Caribbean, understood here as the islands whose shores surround the Caribbean Sea and the islands of the Bahama Archipelago. Though these islands were never isolated from the surrounding mainland, their histories are sufficiently diverse to warrant their identification as distinct areas of culture. Over the past 20 years, Caribbean archaeology has been transformed from a focus on reconstructing culture histories to one on the mobility and exchange expressed in cultural and social dynamics. This Handbook brings together, for the first time, examples of the best research conducted by scholars from across the globe to address the complexity of the Caribbean past.

Singing for the Dead: The Politics of Indigenous Revival in Mexico, Paja Faudree
Singing for the Dead chronicles ethnic revival in Oaxaca, Mexico, where new forms of singing and writing in the local Mazatec indigenous language are producing powerful, transformative political effects. Paja Faudree argues for the inclusion of singing as a necessary component in the polarized debates about indigenous orality and literacy, and she considers how the coupling of literacy and song has allowed people from the region to create texts of enduring social resonance. She examines how local young people are learning to read and write in Mazatec as a result of the region’s new Day of the Dead song contest. Faudree also studies how tourist interest in local psychedelic mushrooms has led to their commodification, producing both opportunities and challenges for songwriters and others who represent Mazatec culture. She situates these revival movements within the contexts of Mexico and Latin America, as well as the broad, hemisphere-wide movement to create indigenous literatures. Singing for the Dead provides a new way to think about the politics of ethnicity, the success of social movements, and the limits of national belonging.

We Are the Face of Oaxaca: Testimony and Social Movements, Lynn Stephen
A massive uprising against the Mexican state of Oaxaca began with the emergence of the Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca (APPO) in June 2006. A coalition of more than 300 organizations, APPO disrupted the functions of Oaxaca’s government for six months. It began to develop an inclusive and participatory political vision for the state. Testimonials were broadcast on radio and television stations appropriated by APPO, shared at public demonstrations, debated in homes and in the streets, and disseminated around the world via the Internet. The movement was met with violent repression. Participants were imprisoned, tortured, and even killed. Lynn Stephen emphasizes the crucial role of testimony in human rights work, indigenous cultural history, community and indigenous radio, and women’s articulation of their rights to speak and be heard. She also explores transborder support for APPO, particularly among Oaxacan immigrants in Los Angeles. The book is supplemented by a website featuring video testimonials, pictures, documents, and a timeline of key events.

Tagged With: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,