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Diane M. Nelson, Professor and Director of Undergraduate Studies, Cultural Anthropology

Diane M. Nelson
Contact Info:
Office Location:  201D Friedl Building
Office Phone:  (919) 684-2069
Email Address: send me a message

Teaching (Fall 2021):

    Friedl Bdg 204, MW 12:00 PM-01:15 PM
    (also cross-listed as GSF 405S.01, ICS 414S.01)
    TBA, W 03:30 PM-06:00 PM

Ph.D.Stanford University1996
M.A.Stanford University1992
B.A.Wellesley College1985
Junior year abroadUniversidad de Sevilla, Seville, Spain1983
American Field Service 4-month student exchangeMérida, Mexico1980

Central America & the Caribbean
Political Economy
Popular Culture
Research Interests:

I began fieldwork in Guatemala in 1985 exploring the impact of civil war on highland indigenous communities with a focus on the more than 100,000 people made into refugees and 200,000 people murdered in what the United Nations has called genocidal violence. Since then my research has sought to understand the causes and effects of this violence, including the destruction and reconstruction of community life (Guatemala: Los Polos de Desarrollo: El Caso de la Desestructuracin de las Comunidades Indigenas CEIDEC1988). In A Finger in the Wound: Body Politics in Quincentennial Guatemala (University of California Press 1999) I describe the relationship between the Guatemalan state and the Mayan cultural rights movement. When asked about indigenous organizing many Guatemalans call it "a finger in the wound." How do material bodies those literally wounded in 35- years of civil war, and those locked in the fear-laden embrace of sexual conquest, domestic labor, mestizaje, and social change movements relate to the wounded body politic? My work draws on popular culture like jokes, rumors, global TV, and subjugated dreams of a "new race" as well as contemporary theories of political economy, subject-formation, the post-colonial, memory, and ethnic, national, gender, and sexual identifications. It explores the relations among Mayan rights activists, ladino (non-indigenous) Guatemalans, the state, and transnational contexts including anthropologists. My new project grows from my interests in cultural studies and cyborg anthropology and explores science and technology development in Guatemala and Latin America more generally. I am focusing on laboratory and clinical research on vector and blood-borne diseases like malaria and dengue and the intersection of this knowledge production with health care in the midst of neo-liberal reforms and popular demands. In the summer of 2003 I began new fieldwork on this interest in Venezuela, while continuing my research in Guatemala.

Areas of Interest:

Cultural anthropology
ethnic national identities
critical theory
popular culture
power and subject formation


Cultural anthropology • ethnic national identities • critical theory • gender • popular culture • power and subject formation • science and technology studies • Mesoamerica

Curriculum Vitae
Current Ph.D. Students   (Former Students)

  • Stephanie J Friede  
  • Jason M. Cross  
  • Diana Gomez  
  • Erin D Parish  
  • Tamar Shrinian  
  • Layla Brown-Vincent  
  • Attiya Ahmad  
  • Dwayne Dixon  
Representative Publications   (More Publications)

  1. Nelson, DM, Reckoning: The Ends of War in Guatemala (February, 2009), Duke University Press  [abs] [author's comments]
  2. Nelson, DM, “Mayan Ponzi: A Contagion of Hope, a Made-off With Your Money,”, E Misférica, on Line Journal of Nyu Hemispheric Institute (2009) [nelson]
  3. Nelson, DM, Los efectos especiales del horror, in Re-pensando la violencia, edited by García, JL; Bastos, S (2010), University of Cordoba, Spain
  4. Nelson, DM, Stumped identities: Body image, bodies politic, and the Mujer Maya as prosthetic, Cultural Anthropology, vol. 16 no. 3 (January, 2001), pp. 314-353, WILEY [repository], [doi]
  5. Nelson, DM, Maya hackers and the cyberspatialized nation-state: Modernity, ethnostalgia, and a lizard queen in Guatemala, Cultural Anthropology, vol. 11 no. 3 (January, 1996), pp. 287-308, WILEY [repository], [doi]