Michael Kearney Memorial Lecture

Michael Kearney

The Michael Kearney Memorial Lecture honors the memory and career of the prominent scholar of transnational migration. Throughout his professional career, Michael Kearney had an abiding interest in three themes which are of particular importance in contemporary society – migration, human rights, and transnationalism.   The interest was manifest in his doctoral research (“The Winds of Ixtepeji”) and developed with more precise focus in the 1980’s, when he devoted his energies to the plight of migrants from Mexico.  These studies and their findings led to a greater involvement with the formulation of public policy and provided the basis for reports and testimony before Federal and California State Legislative Hearings.  They sharpened and crystallized his commitment to applied anthropology as a tool for understanding and resolving problems in the human condition.

We honor his life with a Memorial Session each year at the annual meetings of the Society for Applied Anthropology. Each year, the Committee will select an outstanding scholar whose presentation will explore the intersection of three themes (migration, human rights, transnationalism)  and with a specific focus on a contemporary issue/problem.


Carlos G. Vélez-Ibáñez

Velez-Ibanez.pngCarlos G. Vélez-Ibáñez received a Ph.D. in Anthropology, USCD (1975). Intellectual interests are broadly comparative and applied and publications include eleven books in English and Spanish with three more translated into Spanish as well many articles and chapters.

He held professorships in anthropology at UCLA and the University of Arizona where in 1982 he was the founding director of the Bureau of Applied Research in Anthropology. He became dean in 1994 at the University of California, Riverside of the College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences and founded the Ernest Galarza Applied Research Center, and in 2011 founded the School of Transborder Studies at Arizona State University. Presently, he is Regents’ Professor of the School of Transborder Studies and School of Human Evolution and Social Change, and Founding Director Emeritus of STS, and Motorola Presidential Professor of Neighborhood Revitalization, at Arizona State University.

Carlos has had numerous research and applied projects funded by private foundations and governmental agencies including the newest in 2016 which is a five-year project designed to recruit, train, and retain Mexican origin migrant students to Arizona State University. His honors include the Bronislaw Malinowski Award, 1994 by the Society of Applied Anthropology; Fellow, Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, Stanford University, 1993-94; and elected Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, 1999. In 2016, he was inducted as a Corresponding Member of the Mexican Academy of Sciences; the first foreign anthropologist selected and joined 107 other members including 10 Noble Prize winners.

Most recently, he was elected as the NACCS Rocky Mountain Foco Scholar in 2016 and received the Saber es Poder Prize in 2018 from the Institute for Mexicans Abroad and the Mexican American Studies Department of the University of Arizona. His book, Hegemonies of Language and their Discontents (Tucson: University of Arizona, 2017) was awarded Honorable Mention by the  American Association of Latinas/os Anthropologists of the American Anthropology Association in November of 2018.


Federico Besserer

Besserer.jpegDr. Besserer has worked extensively on problem-solving research in association with traditional governments of transnational communities stretching across México and the United States.  In 1999 Dr. Besserer and Dr. Michael Kearney (UCR) launched a research and teaching collaboration, committed to problems and questions regarding the lives and wellbeing of transnational peoples. Among other books, his work on transnational communities includes the research results of a collective ethnography edited with Michael Kearney: San Juan Mixtepec. A Transnational Community Facing the Classifying and Filtering Power of Borders (San Juan Mixtepec. Una comunidad transnacional ante el poder clasificador y filtrador de las fronteras). Juan Pablos, Editor – UAM. (2006). 

In the last ten years, Dr. Besserer has conducted a research project with a global reach, including Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas, exploring how transnational urban spaces such as transnational streets and neighborhoods, articulate the margins of the cities into a planetary network to which we can refer as the transnational city. One of the books resulting from this project is Urban Intersections. Transnational City / Global City (Intersecciones urbanas. Ciudad transnacional / Ciudad global) Juan Pablos, Editor – UAM (2016).
His latest book, Transnational Studies. Anthropological Keys. (Estudios transnacionales. Claves desde la antropología). Juan Pablos, Editor – UAM (2019) explores the encounters and dis-encounters of theoretical and practical perspectives in the construction of the field of transnational studies.  

Federico Besserer received a master’s degree from the Department of Anthropology at UCR, and a Ph.D. in anthropology from Stanford University.  He is professor at the Department of Anthropology of the Autonomous Metropolitan University, Campus Iztapalapa (UAM-I) in México. 


Yolanda Moses

2018 Michael Kearney Memorial Lecturer Yolanda MosesDr. Yolanda T. Moses-Moses served as President of the American Anthropological Association (1995-97), Chair of the Board of the American Association of Colleges and Universities (2000), Past President of City University of New York/ The City College (1993-1999), and President of the American Association for Higher Education (2000-2003). She was a member of the Board of Trustees of the Ford Foundation from 1996 to 2008. She is a proud product of public higher education in California and attributes her success in part, to the excellent education that she received at San Bernardino Valley College where she received an Associate of Arts degree (1965 to 1966). “It was there that I received the best liberal arts education in the state. That higher education foundation has prepared me for the successes in my professional life to date. My professors at SBVC were caring, fantastic people who believed in me.”

She currently serves as Professor of Anthropology and Associate Vice Chancellor for Diversity, Equity and Excellence at the University of California, Riverside.  Dr. Moses’ research focuses on the broad question of the origins of social inequality in complex societies through the use of comparative ethnographic and survey methods.  She has explored gender and class disparities in the Caribbean, East Africa and in the United States.  More recently, her research has focused on issues of diversity and change in universities and colleges in the United States, India, Europe and South Africa. 

She has been involved on the steering groups of several U.S. National higher education projects with the National Council for Research on Women, Campus Women Lead and The Women of Color Research Collective.  In addition, she was Chair of the National Advisory Board of a multi-year national public education project sponsored by the American Anthropological Association and funded by NSF and the Ford Foundation on Race and Human Variation. See: www.understandingrace.org. The goal of the project was to change the way the nation understood and talked about the meaning and consequences of “race.” She was Co-PI on a Ford Foundation grant that sponsored phase two of that work.

She is currently the PI on an NSF ADVANCE Grant, (2011 to 2015) to advance the role of women faculty in the STEM Fields; and she was recently PI on an NEH Grant (2011-12) to create a national educational network for educators to develop a bio-cultural approach to the teaching of race in high school and in undergraduate social science and biology classes.

At the University of California, she is currently a co-founder and on the Steering Committee of the UC wide research project, UCCNRS (University of California Center For New Racial Studies). The mission of the Center is to support innovation in UC-based race/racism research and teaching and to encourage interdisciplinary and collaborative work focused on advancing social/racial justice in an era of changing racial dynamics and persistent racial/ethnic conflict and inequality.

She is the co-author also with Carol Mukhopadhyay and Rosemary Henze, Professors at CSU San Jose of the book: How Real is Race: A Sourcebook on Race, Culture and Biology. (2007) Rowman and Littlefield; (2014) Altamira Press. She is also co-Author along with Alan Goodman and Joseph Jones, of the book, Race: are we so Different? published by Wiley-Blackwell (2012).

Moses is currently a consultant to the American Council on Education’s Project, on linking International and Diversity Issues, and to the recent publication, At Home in the World: Bridging the Gap between Internationalization and Multicultural Education (2007). She is currently a faculty member in the Salzburg Seminar‘s ISP Global Citizenship Program in Salzburg, Austria, and a faculty member in their on-going Mellon Fellows Program on Global Citizenship. And in 2009, she was named an AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Science) Fellow.

Moses' faculty positions include a senior visiting Research appointment at George Washington University in Washington D.C. (2000 to 2004), and a position as Professor of Anthropology at the City University of New York Graduate University (1993-2000).

Listen to her interview here


Josiah Heyman

2018 Michael Kearney Memorial Lecturer Josiah HeymanProfessor of Anthropology and Director, Center for Interamerican and Border Studies, University of Texas at El Paso

Heyman’s teaching, research, and applied engagement center on immigration, especially at the U.S.-Mexico border. He specifically focuses on immigration law enforcement, agencies, officers, and tactics, and attendant human rights issues. Related to this, he studies border enforcement of all types (guns, drugs, money, terrorism, as well as migration), and alternatives to current border security policies. Also, Heyman works on border cultures, environmental issues (especially water), and access and barriers to health care in border regions. He was a member and Chair (two terms) of the Public Policy Committee of the SfAA. He is currently Board President of the Border Network for Human Rights, and Coordinator of the Training, Complaints, and Operations working group of the Southern Border Communities Coalition, human rights advocates engaged in dialogue with Congress and U.S. Customs and Border Protection. 

Interview with Joe Heyman


Ellen Gruenbaum

2017 Michael Kearney Memorial Lecturer Ellen GrauenbaumEllen Gruenbaum is a feminist cultural medical anthropologist, whose work has focused on gender and health, engaging with the issues of cultural change and self-determination, human rights, and girls’ and women’s well being in Sudan and elsewhere.  Embracing the international human rights discourse as a powerful tool for elevating women’s and girls’ rights to policy and action, her approach grounds the process of change in deeply rooted cultural dynamics that require insight as well as challenge. Her widely-read works have been influential in shifting the discourse from “harmful traditional practices” and “eradication” of “mutilation” toward an approach that more positively engages with the behavioral and political economic complexity that the abandonment of female genital cutting embodies. Her work engages with organizations and movements to develop and document the more positive and inspiring ways to achieve human rights goals—such as the Saleema Initiative—while critiquing the misuse of “human rights violation” accusations in contexts where it has been a blunt instrument used to denigrate cultural and religious traditions. She highlights the larger context of “harmful global practices” that create conditions of human suffering where women’s and girls’ human rights are persistently violated. In an era of unsympathetic blaming and stigmatizing, it is more important than ever for anthropologists to engage with policy and practice in human rights.

Gruenbaum has served on the Committee for Human Rights of the American Anthropological Association, the boards of the Association for Feminist Anthropology and the Society for Medical Anthropology, and the editorial board of the Journal of Middle East Women’s Studies. She is the author of The Female Circumcision Controversy:  An Anthropological Perspective (Universityof Pennsylvania Press) and is the Head of the Department of Anthropology at Purdue University.


Barbara Rose Johnston

2016 Michael Kearney Memorial Lecturer Barbara RoseThe 2016 Michael Kearney Lecture principle speaker is Barbara Rose Johnston, senior research fellow at the Center for Political Ecology.

An environmental anthropologist, her action-research explores environmental crisis and human rights abuse with the goal of securing acknowledgment of harm and implementation of the right to a healthy environment, environmental equity, and the right to reparation and remedy. Her work is done in collaboration with affected communities and their advocates with investigative, peer review, and advocacy support from colleagues and professional organizations.  

An award-winning author, she has published definitive works that shape the interdisciplinary field of political ecology and demonstrate the power of a science and human rights approach in action-research. As an advisor to the Marshall Islands Nuclear Claims Tribunal, she conducted research on the biomedical, social, cultural, and environmental impacts of the United States nuclear weapons testing program and the history and consequences of a classified human radiation experimentation program, served with Holly Barker as an expert witness in Nuclear Claims Tribunal proceedings, and provided documents, briefings and other contributions to a 2012 United Nations Special Rapporteur investigation on continuing environmental contamination and related human rights abuse. 

As a member of the UNESCO expert panel on water and cultural diversity (2008-11), she contributed to international conferences and public policy processes, and served as editor-in-chief for the interdisciplinary textbook on Water, Cultural Diversity and Global Environmental Change, produced through a partnership between UNESCO International Hydrological Programme, United Nations University Traditional Knowledge Initiative and the Center for Political Ecology. Her work on reparation and the right to remedy for Chixoy dam-affected communities in Guatemala continues to influence national and international public policy.

Listen to the podcast


Lynn Stephen

2015 Michael Kearney Memorial Lecturer Lynn StephenThe 2015 Michael Kearney Lecture principle speaker is the Distinguished Professor of Arts and Sciences, Prof. Lynn Stephen. She is a professor and Director, Center for Latino/a and Latin American Studies (CLLAS) at the University of Oregon.  

Lynn Stephen is a cultural anthropologist whose interdisciplinary research has been at the forefront of illuminating major challenges facing Mesoamerican indigenous peoples–out-migration, tourism, state assimilation programs and nationalism, economic development, and low-intensity war—and of analyzing the spectrum of local and global responses they have developed to these issues, including social movements, unique educational and knowledge systems, innovative forms of media and governance and rights claiming. Gender and its intersection with race, class, ethnicity, and nationalism has been the primary lens for much of this work. Her research over three decades has anticipated the ways that globalization is creating new forms of transborder social and political organization. Her theoretical concept of transborder communities has been widely adopted by scholars of migration in many fields, as has her research on gender in indigenous populations.

Listen to the podcast


Rodolfo Stavenhagen

2014 Michael Kearney Memorial Lecturer Rodolfo StavenhagenThe 2014 Michael Kearney Lecture principle speaker is the renown Mexican sociologist, Prof. Rodolfo Stavenhagen. He is a professor-researcher at El Colegio de México and former Deputy Director General of UNESCO.  

Rodolfo Stavenhagen is professor emeritus at El Colegio de México, one of Mexico’s foremost social science institutions. From 2001 to 2008 he was United Nations Special Rapporteur for the Human Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Before that he was Assistant Director-General for Social Sciences at UNESCO, President of the Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences, and taught at numerous universities in Europe and the Americas. The International Institute of Social Studies (ISS) in The Hague awarded him an Honorary Fellowship in 1982. He has worked on human rights, indigenous peoples, agrarian problems, social development and ethnic conflicts. Among his principal publications are Social Classes in Agrarian Societies (1975), Ethnic Conflicts and the Nation-State (1995), The Ethnic Question: Development, Conflicts and Human Rights (1990), Derechos humanos y derecho indígena en América Latina (1989), and Los pueblos indígens y sus derechos (2008).


Patricia Zavella

2013 Michael Kearney Memorial Lecturer Patricia ZavellaThe 2013 Michael Kearney Lecture principle speaker is Patricia Zavella, Professor of Latin American and Latino Studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz.   

Zavella received her M.A. and Ph.D. in Anthropology from the University of California, Berkeley.  After completing her degree, she received a postdoctoral fellowship at Stanford’s Center for Chicano Research.  She has published extensively on feminist ethnography and Chicana/o studies; poverty, women’s labor; family, kinship, sexuality and the social and cultural changes brought about by transnational migration of Mexican workers to the United States. Her books include: Women’s Work and Chicano Families: Cannery Workers of the Santa Clara Valley (Cornell University Press, 1987); Telling to Live: Latina Feminist Testimonios, co-authored with members of the Latina Feminist Group (Duke University Press, 2001), Chicana Feminisms: A Critical Reader  (Duke University Press, 2003), co-authored with UCSC professors Gabriela Arredondo, Aída Hurtado, Norma Klahn and Olga Nájera Ramírez, and Women and Migration in the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands: A Reader, co-edited with Denise Segura (Duke University Press, 2007). Her most recent book is: “I’m Neither Here nor There:” Mexicans’ Quotidian Struggles with Migration and Poverty (Duke University Press 2011).

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