Assistant Professor (Social Movements, Indigenous Rights, Political Anthropology)
Dr. Bjork-James is a cultural anthropologist whose work focuses on strategies of grassroots autonomy and disruptive protest in Latin America. His book manuscript, The Sovereign Street: Making Revolution in Urban Bolivia (to be published in 2020), analyzes the takeover and use of urban space by grassroots social movements, particularly in the cities of Cochabamba, Sucre, and La Paz. Using both anthropological and historical methods, he explores how pivotal public events generate political legitimacy, contribute to major (sometimes revolutionary) transformations in the balance of power, and provide models for future political action. The ethnographic evidence collected about these events—of social life as experienced through the human body, the meanings attached to places, and social movement practices—explains how grassroots movements exert leverage upon the state through protest.
A second area of his scholarship concerns the dynamic interaction between protest tactics and state responses to protest in Bolivia. This includes protesters’ differing approaches to tactics, including movements that are explicitly nonviolent, violent, or neither; the causes, meaning, and consequences of death in political conflict; and the results of conflicts between unarmed protesters and armed members of state security forces. In addition to ethnographic study of these dynamics, he is compiling a database of deaths in Bolivian political conflict that covers events since 1982.
Finally, an emerging research project, Perspectives on Space and Territory in Socio-Environmental Conflicts, looks at the political, ethical, and legal tensions that surround resource extraction projects pursued by “post-neoliberal” governments in South America. Building on his past work in this area as both a researcher and a policy advocate, this project focuses on indigenous opposition to environmentally damaging projects on their traditional territories.
Overall, Dr. Bjork-James' research agenda examines how subordinate social groups, particularly the urban poor and indigenous peoples, organize their own spaces and assertively use public spaces. It pursues a spatially aware ethnographic approach, interested in the practical and symbolic significance of urban places and indigenous territories, as well as a careful examination of the practices of social movements in sustained conflicts. Some broader issues of interest in his research are evolving ideas of collective rights (including the right to strike, and the rights of peasants and indigenous peoples), strategic and tactical questions in collective mass action, and the role of urban space in reproducing and challenging racial and state power.
His teaching focuses on providing students with anthropological knowledge on globally relevant issues: indigeneity, environmental rights, the state, race, public space, cultural diversity, social inequality, and political change. Courses he regularly teaches include: Introduction to Cultural Anthropology, History and Culture of the Andes, Human Rights of Indigenous Peoples, History of Anthropological Theory II, Race as a Cultural and Legal Construct, Biology and Culture of Race, and Political Anthropology: States and Their Secrets.
Scroll below to see Dr. Bjork-James’ publications or click on her website for publications and more.
Social Movements, Indigenous Rights, Political Anthropology
2020e The Sovereign Street: University of Arizona Press. https://uapress.arizona.edu/book/the-sovereign-street
2020a Unarmed Militancy: Tactical Victories, Subjectivity, and Legitimacy in Bolivian Street Protest. American Anthropologist 122:514-527. https://anthrosource.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/aman.13382
2020b Goldstein, Daniel M. Owners of the sidewalk: security and survival in the informal city. xiv, 334 pp., illus., bibliogr. Durham, N.C.: Duke Univ. Press, 2016. £20.99 (paper). Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 26:445-446. https://rai.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/1467-9655.13269
2020c Unarmed Militancy: Tactical Victories, Subjectivity, and Legitimacy in Bolivian Street Protest. American Anthropologist. https://anthrosource.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/aman.13382
2018 Binding Leaders to the Community: The Ethics of Bolivia's Organic Grassroots. Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology 23:363-382. https://anthrosource.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/jlca.12325
2016 Earth Beings: Ecologies of Practice Across Andean Worlds by Marisol de la Cadena. Anthropological Quarterly 89:283-294. https://muse.jhu.edu/article/613681
2015a Hunting indians: Globally circulating ideas and frontier practices in the Colombian Llanos. Comparative Studies in Society and History 57:98-129. https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/comparative-studies-in-society-and-history/article/hunting-indians-globally-circulating-ideas-and-frontier-practices-in-the-colombian-llanos/F2862341FCCAFF51BF69078958014373
2015b Remapping Bolivia: Resources, Territory, and Indigeneity in a Plurinational State. Nicole Fabricant and Bret Gustafson (eds.), Santa Fe: School for Advanced Research, 2011. 251 +viii pp. The Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology 20:185-187. https://anthrosource.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/jlca.12130
2014b Mobilizing Bolivia's Displaced: Indigenous Politics and the Struggle over Land. Nicole Fabricant, Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2012. 257+xv pp. The Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology 19:359-361. https://anthrosource.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/jlca.12081
Maharawal, Manissa McCleave, et al.
2012 CUNY Graduate School Student Collective: Neil Agarwal, Carwil Bjork-James, Emily Channell, Mark Drury, Linsey Ly, Malav Kanuga, Madhuri Karak, Manissa Maharawal, and Amiel Melnick. Anthropology Now 4:81-88. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/19492901.2012.11728363
2020d Left populism in the heart of South America: From plurinational promise to a renewed extractive nationalism. In Beyond Populism: Angry Politics and the Twilight of Neoliberalism. J. Maskovsky and S. Bjork-James, eds: West Virginia University Press. http://hrp.law.harvard.edu/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/CBjork-James_20_003-1.pdf
Bjork-James, Carwil, and Holly K. Sonneland
2019b Q&A: The View from the Streets in Bolivia | AS/COA. https://www.as-coa.org/articles/qa-view-streets-bolivia
2019a Presentation: New Maps for an Inclusive Wikipedia, January. https://archive.org/details/WikipediaDay2019Nyc
2014a Claiming space, redefining politics: Urban protest and grassroots power in Bolivia., Dissertation Abstracts International Section A: Humanities and Social Sciences, ProQuest Dissertations Publishing. https://academicworks.cuny.edu/gc_etds/3329/
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