Garland Hall 011
Ph.D. City University of New York
M.P.P. Harris School, University of Chicago
Dr. Bjork-James is a cultural anthropologist whose work focuses on strategies of grassroots autonomy and disruptive protest in Latin America. His primary research project studies the takeover and use of urban space by grassroots social movements in Bolivia, particularly in the city of Cochabamba. 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. 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.
He has taught at Hunter College, Baruch College, and New College of California. He worked for several years supporting indigenous communities affected by oil drilling in Colombia, Nigeria, and Alaska. His writing has appeared in the Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology, the Journal of Peasant Studies, and Anthropology Now.