IMS Alumni

Courtney Kurlanska



Ph.D., Anthropology, State University of New York at Albany
MS , Urban Studies, University of New Orleans
BA, Anthropology and Journalism, Brandeis University

Research interests

Globalization, Sustainable and International Development, 21st Century Socialism, Migration, Remittances, Economic Anthropology, Risk, Livelihoods.

Current research

My current research trajectory examines the interface of sustainable development and 21st century socialism in Latin America with the goal of identifying key aspects or features that can be used to help develop future policy for long-term sustainable development initiatives.  While traditional socialism and sustainable development have both been maligned in the contemporary neoliberal context, it has become evident to many working in the field of development that traditional growth-oriented solutions are no longer a feasible alternative given environmental and resource related constraints, not to mention the growing inequality associated with many development initiatives.

Current Writing Project
I am currently preparing my dissertation for publication.  The book tackles the challenging issue of international development in a politically and economically unstable world.  The text combines rich ethnographic description of the daily lives of farmers struggling to eke out a living under the burden of climate change, the global economic downturn, and microdebt with the complex and competitive ideologies of neoliberalism and social democracy.  Nicaragua is once again a pawn between two influential forces on opposite sides of an ideological divide.  Torn between the neoliberal impositions of the World Bank and the IMF, led by the United States, and the government’s push towards Social Democracy, supported by ALBA and Venezuela, Nicaragua presents a fascinating case of how small developing country has managed to walk the fine line between these two opposing forces. 

Delving into the role of microfinance and microcredit in this ideological battle and situated within the current political and economic chaos of the times, this book provides a unique opportunity to examine the rise, fall, and re-emergence of microcredit and microfinance during the different ideological shifts driving politics in Nicaragua.  Consequently, this dominant development strategy has been reworked and reformulated to meet the needs of the government in power and even used as a tool by the government to exert a greater amount of influence over the population.  While microfinance is often lauded as tool for economic independence, the reality is quite different.  In many cases microdebt is used as a tool of the government, a mechanism for controlling the population.

You can download Courtney's CV here.