Faculty Friday: Christopher Loperena

Every Friday, the International Studies Department will profile one of our amazing faculty members so you can get to know them better and see all the amazing work our faculty do!

Faculty Friday Profile: Christopher Loperena

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Christopher Loperena is an assistant professor in the International Studies Department and the academic director for the Master of Arts in International Studies program. He received his bachelor’s degree in International Studies from the University of Chicago, with an emphasis on human rights in the Southern Cone of Latin America. After completing college, he co-founded a non-profit organization that provided computer technology training to grassroots organizations in Latin America and the Caribbean. He worked in Honduras and Jamaica before returning to school to pursue a graduate degree at the University of Texas at Austin. He completed his Ph.D. in Social Anthropology in August 2012.

Professor Loperena’s research looks at the socio-spatial politics of development in Latin America. He’s interested in how neoliberal and extractivist development paradigms affect the territorial rights of black and indigenous peoples. His research has appeared or is forthcoming in Current Anthropology, Geoforum, The Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology and Journal of Sustainable Tourism. His most recent publication highlights how neoliberal tourism policies are advanced under the guise of ecotourism and sustainable development, creating the conditions for extractivism to take hold in black and indigenous territories. He challenges the tendency to position tourism, in particular ecotourism, as an alternative to traditional extractive industries.

Currently he is working on two book projects. The first is a single-authored manuscript titled, “A Fragmented Paradise: Race, Territory and Black Autonomy on the Caribbean Coast of Honduras.” Based on over two years of continuous ethnographic research, A Fragmented Paradise examines how struggles over lands that are targeted for tourism development shape the ethics of autonomy in a Garifuna village situated on the white-sand beaches of Tela Bay, Honduras. The second project is an edited volume (with Aída Hernandez Castillo and Mariana Mora) on the use of anthropological knowledge in the adjudication of indigenous and afrodescendant rights.

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Professor Loperena is committed to making sure his research has a scholarly impact beyond the academy. Most recently, he provided expert testimony for a Garifuna land rights case before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. He has written affidavits for asylum cases, and he sits on the Board of Directors for Refugee Transitions—a local community-based nonprofit agency serving high-need, low-income refugee, asylee, and immigrant newcomers.

In his free time, Professor Loperena enjoys walking aimlessly through San Francisco’s colorful streets, sampling the city’s many wonderful restaurants, and long runs in Golden Gate Park. He’s also fond of 90s hip hop, salsa, merengue and any music that inspires him to dance!

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