My research departs from the examination of identity as a highly dynamic and mobile process that emerges from individual and collective engagements with history and geography. With a primary focus on Latin America, my work builds on debates concerning the construction of race and ethnicity with a specific focus on the interplay between place and social activism. As a human geographer, I approach the study of these themes through a multidisciplinary lens that brings together contributions from critical race and cultural studies, political economy and political ecology and postcolonial studies.
I utilize collaborative ethnographic methods that seek the participation of my informants in various stages of the research process through the development of "talleres de diálogo" or "dialogue workshops" where research themes are discussed and recorded in small to medium sized groups.
My current research focuses on the opportunities and challenges presented by activist alliances that cross-racial and spatial boundaries. Since 2010, the threat of transnational mining in the sacred Wixárika pilgrimage site of Wirikuta has galvanized non-governmental organizations, academics, celebrities and individual activists to support the Wixárika peoples' defense of their sacred territory. In collaboration with Wixárika authorities and utilizing the popularity of this indigenous peoples' aesthetics and spiritual practices, this coalition effectively halted most mineral extraction in Wirikuta. Nonetheless, this multiracial coalition has faced a series of internal disputes leading to debates over how the Wixárika and the territory of Wirikuta are being represented by non-indigenous activists. Through these debates, young university educated Wixárika have positioned themselves as the intellectual voice of the movement.
This work builds on my doctoral research which examined the politics of identity, space and activism among Wixárika university students and professionals living and working in the western Mexican cities of Tepic and Guadalajara. Although the population of indigenous peoples living in cities has steadily increased over the past four decades, both public policy and popular representations have failed to recognize this geographic heterogeneity. My dissertation, Colores Mexicanos: Racial Alterity and the Right to the Mexican City, analyzes the effects of enduring racial stereotypes and reveals how Wixárika youth are making claims to a more heterogeneous citizenship that crosses deep-rooted racial and spatial boundaries. Ethnographic research included eight years of participant observation and semi-structured interviews with Wixárika students, professionals, and their respective organizations.