409A Alumni Bldg.
Department of Anthropology, CB# 3115
University of North Carolina
Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3115
Area of Interest:
Ethnography of Communication, Narrative, Performance and Poetics, Gender, Anthropology of Children and Adoption, Southern United States, Latin America
Ph.D., Folklore, Indiana University, 1993.
M.A., Anthropology, University of Texas at Austin, 1986.
B.A., English, Yale University, 1978.
Research & Activities:
Research Background: My work focuses on the constitution of identity and culture through communicative interaction. I conceive of communication as symbolic activity in which the participant draws upon a repertoire of resources and responds to a multitude of prior communications and pre-existing discourses. Gender, race, nationality, and class—individual and communal senses of self—are stabilized and changed in such enactments. I am especially interested in how individuals mobilize and thus constitute the aesthetic and the traditional and in the role of the ethnographer as interlocutor. My goals are to engage the insights of Folklore and Linguistic Anthropology in order to understand the impact of global interconnection on local subjectivities and to contribute to the theorization of a feminist, postcolonial ethnographic practice.
I recently completed a book on a 96-year-old woman from the North Carolina mountains, based on her repertoire of songs and stories about her life. My analysis highlights how Bessie Eldreth creates a self through dialogue, responding simultaneously to disparaging local discourses on the role of women and the poor, to myself as both fictive grandchild and embodiment of privilege and education, and to potential readers whose anticipated stereotypical image of her as an "Appalachian singer" she both enjoys and contests.
Present Research: My current research focuses on the changing self-concept of women in a small Guatemalan town, seemingly remote, yet tied to global networks through the history of colonization, U.S. support for military intervention, evangelical proselytization, outmigration for work, and tourism. I am especially interested in women who have sought higher education, many of whom teach grade school in the mornings and Spanish to foreign visitors in the afternoons. What kind of education do they receive and provide? How do they envision their role as educated indigenous women in the development of their community after 30 years of national violence? How do they decide between teaching and potentially more lucrative manual labor on plantations or across the border? What impact do their intensive interactions with liberal foreigners have on their image of and connections to the world outside Guatemala?
Selected Publications:2009. With Leslie Rebecca Bloom. Ethical responsibility in feminist research: challenging ourselves to do activist research with women in poverty. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education
2002. Performance at the Nexus of Gender, Power, and Desire. Journal of American Folklore 115(455):28-61.
2001. Transparent Masks: The Ideology and Practice of Masking in Cajun Country Mardi Gras. Journal of American Folklore 114(451)1-29.
1999. Gender, context, and the narrative construction of identity: Rethinking models of "women's narrative." In Reinventing Identities: The Gendered Self in Discourse, ed. Mary Bucholtz, A. C. Liang, and Laurel A. Sutton pp. 241-258. New York: Oxford University Press.
Affiliated and Emeritus Faculty