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Diane M. Nelson, Eads Family Professor and Director of Graduate Studies for the Department
My work is concerned with subjectivity and power and draws on close to 25 years of work in Guatemala (over seven years in country). Specifically, I try to understand how complex social formations like nationalism, ethnicity, gender, and sexuality intersect with violence and the state to produce people’s senses of identity. I began working in Guatemala in 1985 in the midst of the civil war. Since then I have studied the causes and effects of that war and what genocide means on the ground to those who survived it. This has led to my long-standing interest in new social movements, like the pan-Mayan ethnic revitalization project, that have emerged in the wake of the war. I draw on theoretical frameworks inspired by feminist and post-colonial thinkers who urge careful consideration of the relations between power and knowledge in view of unequal global power relations. Because so much of what I study addresses the role of the body, how it is understood as “raced” or gendered, and how different entities—from liberation movements to military states—try to control it, I have been influenced by thinking on biopolitics (the production and care for life itself), in relation to necro-politics (the production and uses of death). The body is experienced by each individual in culturally specific ways, but it is also lived as part of larger imaginaries that are impacted by the media, understandings of science and technology, and popular culture, so my work also draws on cultural studies and medical anthropology.
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