Diane Michele Nelson

Diane Michele Nelson

Professor of Cultural Anthropology

External address: 
201D Friedl Building, East Campus, Durham, NC 27708
Internal office address: 
Box 90091, Durham, NC 27708-0091
(919) 684-2069


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.

Degrees & Credentials

  • Ph.D., Stanford University 1996

  • M.A., Stanford University 1992

  • B.A., Wellesley College 1985

Nelson, D. M. “Horologists Unite! Take Back the Night (of the Soul) Review.” Science Fiction Studies, 2010.

Nelson, D. M. ““Mayan Ponzi: A Contagion of Hope, a Made-off With Your Money,”.” E Misférica, on Line Journal of Nyu Hemispheric Institute, 2009.

Nelson, D. M. “"I Want...to Look Like You: Mestizaje and Raciology in the Global Exchange of Glances".” Key Issues in Latin American Anthropology: Social Movements, Mestizaje, Globalisation, and the Politics of Ethnography, edited by Miguel Diaz-Barriga, 2005.

Nelson, D. “"Tengo dos caras:" El estado, duplicidad y las trans/acciones de la identificaión" ["I have Two Faces:" The State, Duplicity, and the Trans/Actions of Identification].” Proceedings From the Biannual Maya Studies Conference, Guatemala City: Universidad Rafaél Landivar PRess, 2005.

Nelson, D. M. “’Relating to Terror: Gender, Anthropology, Law and Some September Elevenths".” Gender, Law, and Public Policy. Special Issue, 2002, pp. 24–24.

Nelson, D. M. “Indian giver or Nobel savage: Duping, assumptions of identity, and other double entendres in Rigoberta Menchú Tum's Stoll/en past.” American Ethnologist, vol. 28, no. 2, Jan. 2001, pp. 303–31. Scopus, doi:10.1525/ae.2001.28.2.303. Full Text

Nelson, D. M. “Stumped identities: Body image, bodies politic, and the Mujer Maya as prosthetic.” Cultural Anthropology, vol. 16, no. 3, Jan. 2001, pp. 314–53. Scopus, doi:10.1525/can.2001.16.3.314. Full Text Open Access Copy

Nelson, D. M. “Review of Love in a Time of Hate: Liberation Psychology in Latin America by Nancy Hollander.” American Ethnologist, Feb. 2000, pp. 179–81.