Professor Jennifer Burrell Receives Grant to Pursue Study in Guatemala

Assistant Professor Jennifer Burrell, Department of Anthropology, has been awarded a €60 301 (~$80,000) grant from the Gerda Henkel Foundation’s program on Security, Society and the State to pursue a study in Guatemala, a place that has been the focus of her research for nearly 20 years. In this new project, she will examine the relationship between the contemporary Guatemalan state and the local extra-legal systems of security in a Mayan community that were implemented following that country’s 36-year civil war.

Initially censured by the Guatemalan state, localities justified the existence of these mandatory-service security committees, called seguridad, as a necessary anti-gang measure. Their success in ensuring local security led to their emulation across Guatemala and eventually to state-led attempts to register and control them.

Dr. Burrell will examine how the concept of the “state” is reconfigured locally in Guatemala through the lens of security. Employing ethnographic analysis and interviews with local,state and regional officials and participants in security-making, she will explore state and community relationships, where control over security has been shifted. Dr. Burrell’s analysis will help move scholars in this area away from the tacit notion of a failed or illegitimate state in Guatemala and toward a new understanding of the interrelationships between state and society in that country.

Dr. Burrell has a book in press titled Maya After War: Conflict, Power and Politics in Guatemala, which comes out in May with University of Texas Press. She also has an edited volume, Central America in the New Millennium that is just out with Berghahn/CEDLA.