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Eugenia Zavaleta Lemus

Graduate Student (Anthropology of childhood; theory of practice and agency; theories of embodiment)

Eugenia is a Second-year cultural anthropologist at Vanderbilt University. In 2015, she wrote her research thesis of Licenciatura entitled “Nuevos agentes, viejas necesidades y el lenguaje de los derechos. Condiciones de posibilidad de la LEPINA en San Ramón, Mejicanos (2013-2014)” focusing on the different interpretations that emerged with the arrival and officialization of the children rights public policy in El Salvador. In 2012 started the process of formulation and design of the new policy for the protection of children in El Salvador. Eugenia conducted a multi-situated ethnography to demonstrate how the political process was a contested arena of struggles where political agents, as meaning-makers, elaborated and spread diverse opinions about the children rights, the concept of the child, parenting styles, the responsibility of the State and the role of families. The dichotomy authority/discipline became one of the most polemic findings because parents felt their functions as disciplining agents restrained by the new attributions given to the State. Eugenia was able to document and observe the contradictory moral costs that this law brought to families living in the outskirts of the capital city, the daily struggles that civil servants faced in the operative level of a precarious state, such as the pressures that the international organisms exerted upon these state offices to approve, design, formulate and implement a new public policy for the regulation of conception and treatment of Salvadorian children.

After completing her degree, she worked for two years as a researcher in NGOs documenting the daily life of children and caregivers in childcare centers across El Salvador, to understand how children are raised in diverse environments usually characterized by scarcity and structural violence. Eugenia has been trained in a broad range of research tools as a social investigator and as a children’s specialist, especially concerning children’s participation in unaccompanied migration and warfare.

Nowadays, Eugenia plans to continue delving in the diverse conceptions of childhood in the context of postwar violence, and more specifically in the experience of the child herself. She pursues her Ph.D. program at Vanderbilt University to make children the principal voices of her research. 


Anthropology of childhood; theory of practice and agency; theories of embodiment; phenomenology; moral anthropology; anthropology of the experience; anthropology in contexts of violence; feminism