UCLA » College » Social Sciences » Anthropology
October 17, 2019
12:15pm to 1:45pm
352 Haines

Jennifer Goett, Associate Professor of Comparative Cultures and Politics, Michigan State University. 


In April 2018, the Nicaraguan state’s violent response to protests against social security cuts ignited a civic uprising against the government of Sandinista President Daniel Ortega and his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo. The standoff between the popular resistance—also known as the autoconvocado or self-convened movement—and the Ortega-Murillo administration has resulted in levels of state repression not seen in Nicaragua since the civil wars of the 1970s and 1980s. The conflict has forced as many as 70,000 Nicaraguans to flee the country. This talk focuses on the experiences of Nicaraguan asylum seekers in Costa Rica and the United States as an entry point for understanding regional violence and migration in postwar Central America. It places their experiences of forced displacement and exile in the context of capitalist accumulation, state repression and corruption, militarization and drug violence, ecological collapse, and US Empire. The analysis challenges common political narratives about the origins of the conflict, which either blame the authoritarianism of the Latin American Left or a U.S.–coordinated soft-coup against the Sandinista state for the violence. Both ways of interpreting the crisis divide the country’s population into “good” and “bad” political subjects, obscuring Nicaraguan political agency and the structural nature of inequality and violence in Central America.

Jennifer Goett is Associate Professor of Comparative Cultures and Politics at Michigan State University. She has published work on Indigenous and Afrodescendant social movements for territorial rights in Central America, particularly Nicaragua, and on militarization, state violence, racialized policing, and infrastructure megaprojects. Goett is the author of Black Autonomy: Race, Gender, and Afro-Nicaraguan Activism (Stanford 2016), which examines the gendered strategies that Afrodescendant women and men use to assert autonomy over their bodies, labor, and spaces in the context of militarization and state violence in postwar Nicaragua. Her articles have appeared in American Ethnologist, Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology, NACLA Report on the Americas, LASA Forum, and other journals and edited volumes.

Culture, Power, and Social Change is concerned with a broad range of issues in sociocultural anthropology. As the name of the group suggests, we are particularly interested in how the workings of culture, and of different forms of power and inequality, play out in the contemporary world. And behind these two issues are questions of social change, that is, of the ways in which the rapidly changing world of today impacts people’s lives, and in turn, how people in different circumstances seek to bring about change in the world. CPSC I hosts talks by both in-house faculty members and visiting post-doctoral and faculty level scholars; CPSC II hosts talks by advanced graduate students. All CPSC events are open only to UCLA faculty, students, and invited guests.