Reflections of a Transborder Anthropologist

From Netzahualcóyotl to Aztlán

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Taking us on a journey of remembering and rediscovery, anthropologist Carlos G. Vélez-Ibáñez explores his development as a scholar and in so doing the development of the interdisciplinary fields of transborder and applied anthropology. He shows us his path through anthropology as both a theoretical and an applied anthropologist whose work has strongly influenced borderlands and applied research. Importantly, he explains the underlying, often hidden process that led to his long insistence on making a difference in lives of people of Mexican origin on both sides of the border and to contribute to a “People with Histories.”

In each chapter, Vélez-Ibáñez revisits a critical piece of his written work, providing a new introduction and discussion of ideas, sources, and influences for the piece. These are followed by the work, chosen because it accentuates key aspects of his development and formation as an anthropologist. By returning to these previously published works, Vélez-Ibáñez offers insight not only into the evolution of his own thinking and conceptualization but also into changes in the fields in which he has been so influential. Throughout his career, Vélez-Ibáñez has addressed why he does the work that he does, and in this volume he continues to address the personal and intellectual drives that have brought him from Netzahualcóyotl to Aztlán.

Reflections of a Transborder Anthropologist shows how both Vélez-Ibáñez and anthropology have changed and formed over a fifty-year period. Throughout, he has worked to understand how people survive and thrive against all odds. Vélez-Ibáñez has been guided by the burning desire to understand inequality, exploitation, and legitimacy, and, most importantly, to provide platforms for the voiceless to narrate their own histories.

Watch a Conversation with Transborder Anthropologist Carlos G. Vélez-Ibáñez


"In recent decades the study of borders and borderlands has been gaining a more active role in activism throughout academia. Nonetheless, border scholars and border activism are not new features in intellectual thought. The anthropologist Carlos G. Vélez-Ibañez shares, in his recent book, insights into his 50-year journey from an early graduate student to his current position as a renowned professor in the School of Transborder Studies at Arizona State University."—Journal of Borderlands Studies

“This is a brilliant collection of essays written by a highly respected and distinguished anthropologist, Carlos G. Vélez-Ibáñez. The essays focus on transnational border issues related to the United States and Mexico. Each essay explores issues of marginality, transborder and transnational issues, tandas, confianza, nonconsensual sterilization cases of Mexican women in California, networks of monetary exchange, political ecology of credit, debt and class, barrioization, women and the border, and the issue of hegemonic language politics.”—Maria Herrera-Sobek, University of California, Santa Barbara

“Carlos G. Vélez-Ibáñez has given us a collection of valuable writings and an intellectual autobiography enriched by wisdom earned over a lifetime of inventive scholarship and institution building across disciplines and borders. Velez-Ibanez’s long intellectual pilgrimage is marked by battles that, won or lost, have made subsequent generations of scholars who they are. We can be deeply grateful to him for explaining this inheritance and pointing the way for others to embark on journeys where his footsteps leave off.”—Casey Walsh, author of Virtuous Waters: Mineral Springs, Bathing, and Infrastructure in Mexico

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