Carmen Martinez Novo

  • Associate Professor
  • Anthropology
  • Latin American, Caribbean, and Latino Studies
  • Social Theory
203 C Lafferty Hall
Other Affiliations:
  • Chair Etnicity
  • Race
  • Indigenous Peoples Section LASA
Research Interests:

Ph.D. Anthropology, New School for Social Research, M.A. Historical Studies and Anthropology, New School for Social Research, B.A. in Geography and History from Universidad Autonoma de Madrid, Spain, 


Carmen Martinez Novo was born and raised in Madrid, Spain. She got her B.A. in Geography and History from Universidad Autonoma de Madrid in Spain. She holds an M.A. in Historical Studies and Anthropology and a Ph.D. in Anthropology from the New School for Social Research, New York. She has taught at the City College of the City University of New York, Drew University, Northeastern University, The Latin American Faculty for the Social Sciences (FLACSO) in Quito, Ecuador, and The University of Kentucky. She has been Visiting Professor at The Johns Hopkins University, Grinnell College, Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Universidad Iberoamericana, Mexico D.F. and Universitat de Lleida in Spain. She has received grants from the MacArthur Foundation, the Wenner-Gren Foundation, and the American Council of Learned Societies among others. She has done research at the Mexico-U.S. border and in Ecuador, where she lived and taught for eight years. Her research focuses on indigenous identities, indigenism, and the relations of indigenous peoples with their non-Indigenous allies. She has also studied racism, paternalism, the anthropology of the State and the anthropology of Latin American elites.  At the University of Kentucky Professor Martínez teaches "Human Rights in Global Perspective," "Culture, Environment and Global Issues,"Contemporary Latin American Cultures,"  "Indigenous Latin America," "Elites in Cross-Cultural Comparison," "Political Economy," and "Ontologies, Emotions, Self."


My research has focused on the formation of ethnic identities through intercultural interactions.  I have published a book on this topic entitled Who Defines Indigenous? Identities, Development, Intellectuals, and the State in Northern Mexico (Rutgers University Press, 2006).  In Who Defines Indigenous?, I studied the impact of non-indigenous government officials, nongovernmental organizations, intellectuals, and economic elites in processes identity formation among Mixtec migrants at the Mexico-U.S. border.  I argued that ethnic identifications do not always promote the liberation of those so labeled.  In some specific contexts, ethnic identifications may be promoted by state and non-state elites for their own purposes, such as preserving a source of cheap agricultural labor for export-oriented agribusiness. I have also published a number of articles in peer reviewed journals about this research.  These works emphasize the connections between identity formation and political-economic contexts, as well as the articulations between race, class, and gender issues.

Since 2002, I started research on indigenous identities and indigenous movements in Ecuador.  More specifically, I have studied the political work of local anthropologists, ethno-linguists, liberation theology, and inculturation theology priests among the indigenous, as well as their indigenist thought.  Later, with the help of an Ecuadorian government grant, I carried out research with Carlos de la Torre and an intercultural team of graduate students on racial discrimination and struggles for citizenship in the Ecuadorian educational system.  We surveyed the whole educational system in Ecuador, from elite private schools to public rural schools for indigenous people and urban schools where Afro-Ecuadorians study.  Our main point was to question the common assumption that educational systems in Latin American countries homogenize the population encouraging citizens to identify with the mestizo. On the contrary, we argued that, in the case of Ecuador, the educational system has contributed to reinforce segregation, social hierarchies, and discriminatory imaginaries, particularly among elites. This work was published in an issue of Latin American and Caribbean Ethnic Studies.

Then, I studied the shifting approaches to ethnicity of new left regimes such as Ecuador’s “Citizen’s Revolution,” which started with the election of president Rafael Correa (2007-2017). President Correa has been a close ally of the radical populist regimes of Venezuela and Bolivia. My current project is a book on the articulations between the decline of indigenous rights and natural resource extraction in Latin America. I have been awarded an American Council of Learned Societies scholarship for this project. 


Graduate Training
Selected Publications: 


2009            (editor) Repensando los movimientos indígenas. Quito: FLACSO.

2006            Who Defines Indigenous? Identities, Development, Intellectuals, and the State in Northern Mexico.  New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press.

Articles in peer-reviewed journals

2016  "Authoritarian ways to overcome neoliberalism." In Progress in Human Geography, online first.

2015            with Victor Breton, “Políticas de reconocimiento neoliberales y posneoliberales en Ecuador: Continuidades y rupturas.” In Special Issue on Contemporary Ethnographies of Indigenous America of Quaderns de l’institut Catalá d’Antropologia 31: 25-49.

2014            “The Minimization of Indigenous Numbers and the Fragmentation of Civil Society in the 2010 Census in Ecuador.” Special issue on Social Identities, Censuses, and Nationalisms in Latin American States, Luis Fernando Angosto and Sabine Kradolfer (eds.), The Journal of Iberian and Latin American Research: The Journal of the Association of Iberian and Latin American Studies of Australasia 20(3), December.

2014            “Managing Diversity in Post-neoliberal Ecuador.” Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology 19(1), march.

2013            “Indigenous Appropriations and Boundary Crossings: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Indigenous Cultures and Politics in the Andes.” Latin American Research Review 48(2): 218-226.

2010            With Carlos de la Torre. “Racial Discrimination and Citizenship in Ecuador’s Educational System,” Latin American and Caribbean Ethnic Studies, 5(1), pp. 1-26.

2007    "Antropología indígenista en el Ecuador desde la década de 1970: compromisos políticos, religiosos y tecnocráticos," Revista Colombiana de Antropología, Volumen 43 (enero-diciembre). Páginas: 335-366. Bogotá- Colombia.

2004             “We Are Against the Government, Although We Are the Government.” State Institutions and Indigenous Migrants in Baja California, Mexico in the 1990s.  Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology, 9 (2), pp. 352-381.

2004            “The Making of Vulnerabilities: Indigenous Day Laborers in Mexico´s Neoliberal Agriculture.” Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power, 11 (2), pp. 217-241.

2003             “The Culture of Exclusion: Representations of Indigenous Women Street Vendors in Tijuana, Mexico.” Bulletin of Latin American Research, 22(3), pp. 249-268.

Edited Issues

2016  “Academic Freedom and Civil Rights in Rafael Correa’s Ecuador,” LASA Forum, vol. XLVII, issue 2, Edited by Carmen Martinez Novo. Contributors Catherine Cohaghan, Rudi Colloredo-Mansfeld, Maria Amelia Viteri, Felipe Burbano de Lara, Carmen Martínez Novo.

Book Chapters

2017      “Ecuador” in Ken Taylor (ed.) Etiquette and Taboos Around The World. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO.

2015            “The Twenty-first Century Left in Latin America and Indigenous Rights.”  In Raab, Josef, and Saskia Hertlein, eds. Spaces—Communities—Discourses: Charting Identity and Belonging in the Americas. Trier: Wissenschaftlicher Verlag Trier & Tempe, AZ: Bilingual Press/Editorial Bilingüe, 2015.

2015            “The Minimization of Indigenous Numbers and the Fragmentation of Civil Society in the 2010 Census in Ecuador” in Luis F. Angosto-Ferrández and Sabine Kradolfer (eds.) The Politics of Identity in Latin American Censuses. London: Routledge.

2014            “El regreso del indigenismo y el ataque a los derechos indígenas en el Ecuador posneoliberal.” In Laura Valladares (ed.) Nuevas violencias en América Latina: Los derechos indígenas ante las políticas neo-extractivistas y las políticas de seguridad. Mexico D.F.: Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana-Iztapalapa and Editorial Juan Pablos.

2014            “Is the Cultural Project of the Indigenous Movement in Crisis?: Some Ethnographic Remarks on the Ambiguities of Intercultural Bilingual Education in Ecuador.” In Josef Raab (ed.) New World Colors: Ethnicity, Belonging, and Difference in The Americas. Trier, Germany: Wissenschaftlicher Verlag and Temple, AZ: Bilingual Press (State University of Arizona). 

2014            “The Tension Between Western and Indigenous Knowledges in Intercultural Bilingual Education in Ecuador.” In Regina Cortina (ed.) The Education of Indigenous Citizens in Latin America. Bristol, United Kingdom: Multilingual Matters.

2013            “Struggles for the Meaning of Indigenous Within Inculturation Theology in Ecuador.” In Marc Becker (ed.) Indigenous and Afro-Ecuadorians Facing the Twenty First Century. Newcastle, UK: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.

2013            “The Backlash Against Indigenous Rights in Ecuador’s Citizen’s Revolution” In Todd Eisenstadt, Michael Danielson, Moisés Bailón, and Carlos Sorroza (eds.) Latin America´s Multicultural Movements: the Struggle Between Communitarianism, Autonomy and Human Rights. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

2013            “Why are indigenous organizations declining in Latin America?” in Douglas Caulkins and Ann Jordan (eds.) A Companion to Organizational Anthropology. Malden, MA: Willey-Blackwell.

2012            “Luchas por el significado del término “indígena” en la Teología de la Inculturación en Ecuador” In Lola Vázquez, Juan Fernando Regalado, Blas Garzón, Víctor Hugo Torres and José Juncosa (eds.) La presencia salesiana en el Ecuador. Quito: Abya Yala.

2011            “Multiculturalismo oficial en América Latina: ¿Democratización o consolidación de la desigualdad?” In Margarita Chaves (ed.), La multiculturalidad estatalizada. Indígenas, afrodescendientes y configuraciones de estado. Bogotá, Colombia: ICANH.

2011            “Etnodesarrollo en la Revolución Ciudadana en Ecuador: Avances, ambiguedades y retrocesos.” In Pablo Palenzuela and Alessandra Olivi (eds). Etnicidad y Desarrollo en los Andes. Sevilla, Spain: Universidad de Sevilla.

2010         “Indigenistas en los margenes del estado: Reflexiones desde la etnografía en la frontera norte de Mexico y en la Amazonia Ecuatoriana.” En Museo de la Ciudad (ed.), Ecuador-México. Vínculo histórico e intercultural (1820-1970). Quito, Fundación Museos de la Ciudad.

2009             The progressive church and the indigenous movement of Ecuador. In Steve Striffler and Carlos de la Torre (eds.) Ecuador Reader. Durham: Duke University Press.

2009            “The Salesian Missions of Ecuador: Building an Anti-Neoliberal Nation with the Indigenous Movement.”  In Bridging the Gaps: Faith Based Organizations, Neoliberalism, and Development in Latin America and the Caribbean, eds. Tara Hefferan, Julie Adkins, Laurie Occhipinti. Lanham, MD: Lexinton Books.

2009            “Indigenistas en los márgenes del estado: Reflexiones desde la etnografía en la frontera norte de México y regiones periféricas del Ecuador.”  In Ospina, Pablo, Olaf Kaltmeier y Christian Buschges (eds.), Los andes en movimiento. Identidad y poder en el nuevo paisaje político. Quito: Universidad Andina Simón Bolívar, Universidad de Bielefeld, Corporación Editora nacional. This book won the Isabel Tobar Guarderas Prize granted by the Municipal Government of Quito as the best book of the year in the social sciences. 

2008            Ecuador: Militants, Priests, Technocrats and Scholars. In Deborah Poole (ed.) Companion to Latin American Anthropology. Malden, MA and Oxford: Blackwell.

2008            Género y educación intercultural bilingüe shuar: Un avance de investigación. En Will Waters y Michael Hamerly (eds.). Estudios Ecuatorianos. Quito: FLACSO.

2007            De militantes, religiosos, tecnócratas y otros investigadores: La antropología ecuatoriana y los indígenas desde los años setenta. En Fernando García (ed.) Memorias del II Congreso Ecuatoriano de Antropología y Arqueología. Pp. 15-40. Quito: Abya Yala.

2007            “Evangelización y movilización étnica: El aporte de la misión salesiana al movimiento indígena de Cotopaxi.” In Christian Buschges, Guillermo Bustos and Olaf Kaltmeier (eds.) Etnicidad y poder en los países andinos. Quito: Corporación Editora Nacional.

2007            “¿Es el multiculturalismo estatal un factor de profundización de la democracia? Reflexiones desde la etnografía en México y Ecuador.” In Víctor Breton (ed.) Ciudadanía y exclusión: España y Ecuador frente al espejo. Madrid: Ediciones de la Catarata.

1999              "Empresas Mixtecas: 'desarrollo' y poder en una cooperativa indígena en la frontera México-Estados Unidos." in Juan Carlos Gimeno and Pilar Monreal (eds). La controversia del desarrollo. Críticas desde la antropología.  Madrid, Spain: Catarata-Instituto Universitario de Desarrollo y Cooperación de la Universidad Complutense de Madrid.


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