Current Institutional Affiliation
Postdoctoral Fellow, Smithsonian Institution

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2008
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Anthropology, University of California / Santa Cruz
The Pan American Highway: An Ethnography of Latin American Integration

A network of roads meant to connect-Canada to Argentina, the Pan American Highway is the material expression of early 20th century dreams of an emergent Latin America. This highway continues to be a key figure in debates over the-contested meanings of Latin America. Projects to extend and expand the highway in Panama's eastern frontier and the Texas-Mexico borderlands reorganize social and natural landscapes, suggesting emergent forms of integration. My research investigates the ways old Pan American Highway dreams are taken up in relation to new visions of Latin America. What histories are encoded in the mid-20th century Pan American highway project? How does this current highway construction dismantle and build off of these older tropes of integration? By investigating how people constructed their everyday lives around la Panamericana, and by tracking the ,changing meanings and uses of the highway, this project will assess the extent to which the current context of multiculturalism and neoliberalism transforms ways people address questions of integration in the frontiers and borders of Latin America. I propose a twenty-month ethnographic study of the Pan American Highway as a material and symbolic figure. Archival research on the Pan American Highway's planning and construction will analyze the highway's role in the 20th century modernization of Latin America. These stories of integration will be further elaborated through ethnographic investigation of activities located in the Texas-Mexico border, and Darien, Panama, two points of controversy on the Pan American Highway currently. My study will compare integration at these two sites.