I am an Assistant Professor of anthropology at Queens College, CUNY. My expertise is on semiotic and linguistic ideologies, specifically how these are mobilized to produce public political life in the process of state formation and the formation of diasporic identities. I am interested in how material circumstances affect the way in which politicians, and the voters who support them, conceive of the linguistic practices and performances that sustain their relationship. My work relies on a discourse-centered approach to language and culture taking instances of language use, and performative practices in context, as the starting point of his ethnographic research. I combine this approach with an interest in practices of translation and semiotic transduction to understand how indigenous languages in Venezuela are translated into Spanish and how Spanish have been translated into Warao, an indigenous language of the Orinoco Delta in eastern Venezuela. I take these translation practices as part of a more general process of transduction of political speech into political influence through the distribution of state resources. My book, Language and Revolutionary Magic in the Orinoco Delta (Bloomsbury Academic Press), explores the role of translation in the process of transforming oil revenue into political influence arguing that these are interconnected processes that help us understand the place of Warao speakers in the context of the Venezuelan public political sphere. Over the last year (2019-2020) I started a new research project in collaboration with Dr. Miki Makihara, funded by CUNY’s PSC-Research Foundation and a Research Enhancement Grant from Queens College, in which I explore linguistic intimacy in the Venezuelan diaspora both in Chile and the U.S. In this new project I will conduct a multi-site ethnographic investigation about the ways in which the largest migratory phenomenon in the hemisphere have produced new linguistic and semiotic practices. There are now over 5 million Venezuelans migrants and refugees in different Latin American countries and the United States. The Venezuelan diaspora in Chile is a very new phenomenon, and the linguistic ideologies that sustain this diasporic identity are being drawn in the context of the worst economic and political crisis in the history of Venezuela, and a profound political crisis in Chile.
Language and Revolutionary Magic in the Orinoco Delta. London: Bloomsbury Academic.
Edited Special Issues
(Edited with Anthony K. Webster) Special issue: Ordeals of Language: Essays in honor of Ellen Basso. Journal of Anthropological Research 68(3)
Papers and Book Chapters
(Co-Authored with Miki Makihara) Posicionamiento, Poder y Política. AGlo Anuario de Glotopolítica #3
(Co-authored with Miki Makihara) "Anthropology of Language Contact and its Sociocultural Contexts". In Oxford Bibliographies in Anthropology,
“I Don't Know How People on Minimum Wage Make it”: The Semiotic Scaling of Political Crisis and Emotions in Venezuela. The Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology, 24: 518-535. https://doi.org/10.1111/jlca.12413
The National Anthem in Warao: Semiotic ground and performative affordances of indigenous language texts in Venezuela. Journal of Linguistic Anthropology 26(3): 335-351.https://doi.org/10.1111/jola.12129
(Co-authored with Jonathan D. Hill) Language in Change: Discourse, Power and History in Amazonia. In Research Companion to Anthropology. Andrew J. Strathern and Pamela J. Stewart, eds. Ashgate Publishing, pp. 317-342.
The Interplay of Greetings and Promises: Political encounters between the Warao and the new indigenous leadership in the Orinoco Delta, Venezuela. Pragmatics 22(1):167-187.https://doi.org/10.1075/prag.22.1.07rod
"Tell Me Why My Children Died": Rabies, Indigenous Knowledge, and Communicative Justice by Charles L. Briggs and Clara Mantini-Briggs, Journal of Anthropological Research 74(2): 256-257. https://doi.org/10.1086/697654
Fluent Selves: Autobiography, Person, and History in Lowland South America. Suzanne Oakdale and Magnus Course (eds). Lincoln: University of NebraskaPress, 2014. 319 pp. Anthropological Linguistics. https://doi.org/10.1353/anl.2015.0000
Made-from-Bone: Trickster Myths, Music, and History from the Amazon. Jonathan D. Hill. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2009. 195 pp. The Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology, 20: 379–381. https://doi.org/10.1111/jlca.12155
In Darkness and Secrecy: The Anthropology of Assault Sorcery and Witchcraft in Amazonia. Neil L. Whitehead and Robin Wright (eds). Durham: Duke University Press, 2004. 327 pp. Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology 11(2): 487-488.https://doi.org/10.1525/jlca.2006.11.2.487