David Stoll

Professor of Anthropology

 work(802) 443-2441
 Spring Term: Mondays and Wednesdays 11:15-12:15; Tuesdays 3-4; or by appointment
 Munroe Hall 203

I come from the Midwest, majored in anthropology at the University of Michigan, and did my Ph.D at Stanford University.  My first research was studying up rather than down in the power structure. A group called the Summer Institute of Linguistics was working in hundreds of indigenous languages in Latin America.  It had its own flight and radio service, as well as long-term contracts with governments, and for some governments it functioned as a U.S.-staffed bureau of indigenous affairs.  Who were these people?  Was SIL merely a façade for its fundraising and recruiting arm, the Wycliffe Bible Translators?  Or was it up to something more? 

As I was wrapping up my history of SIL in Latin America, the U.S. religious right joined the Reagan administration's war against the Sandinista Revolution in Nicaragua.  I was appalled but learned that televangelist Pat Robertson’s pitches for the Contras were not very consequential. The really interesting question was why so many Latin Americans were joining evangelical churches. Is Latin America Turning Protestant? (1990) explained why evangelicals have appealed to many more Latin Americans than liberation theology has.

In 1987-1991 I did my dissertation research in Nebaj, a Mayan town that, not long before, had given considerable support to the guerrilla movement fighting Guatemala’s military dictatorship. Following the worst of the counterinsurgency, I was able to interview hundreds of survivors.  Based on what they told me, I decided to challenge the guerrillaphile interpretation of the war adopted by the human rights movement.  This led to two books about the conflict, its antecedents and sequel in Quiché Department: Between Two Armies in the Ixil Towns of Guatemala (1993) and Rigoberta Menchú and The Story of All Poor Guatemalans (1999).

In 2007 I was shocked to learn that Nebajenses were running up astounding debts to each other, to loan sharks, and to banks of one kind or another.  The most obvious culprit was undocumented migration to the U.S.  My research on this subject is now available in El Norte or Bust! How Migration Fever and Microcredit Produced a Financial Crash in a Latin American Town (2013).

In debates over U.S. immigration policy, we focus most of our attention on the political theater of anti-immigration forces agitating for crackdowns and pro-immigration forces agitating for amnesties. Overlooked are the millions of Latin Americans, Africans, Chinese, etc. who continue to pin their hopes on a U.S. job. What are the implications of the 2008 U.S. financial crisis, and of the high unemployment rates since then, for foreigners who see U.S. jobs as their lifeline?  Judging from my research with the Nebajenses, I believe that the U.S. labor market has the same impact on low-wage immigrants that it has on so many American workers—it pulls them deeper into debt.




Program in International and Global Studies

Robert A. Jones '59 House
148 Hillcrest Road
Middlebury College
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