I’m a Ph.D. Candidate in Geography at the University of California, Berkeley with a professional background in journalism on Latin American affairs and U.S. policy toward the region. Although I’m focused full-time on my academic work, I continue doing journalism on the side as a way of sharing my research with broader audiences.
Anchored in the fields of political geography and political ecology, my research is about the effects of natural resource conflicts, illicit networks, and violence on political-economic development in Latin America.
My current research project, Territorial Masquerades: Economies of Violence and Frontier State Formations in Northwest Colombia, is about how outlaw combatant groups fighting in the country’s civil war engage in unexpected forms of state-making as they vie for territorial control over geostrategic areas.
This blog is my motley space for commentary, summary, research notes, study, and whatever else I might want to do. Since February 2011, I’ve been using it to “write out loud” and to keep track of stuff I work on and think about.
The image gracing the header of the blog is called, “Fool’s Cap Map.” David Turnbull explains this unique cartographic specimen in his book Masons, Tricksters, and Cartographers (2000, 92):
Although the author and origin are unknown, the Fool’s Cap Map dates from the late sixteenth century, probably post-1587… The title is roughly translatable as ‘’tis folly to be wise’. There are several variants of this image but they all bear the Delphic injunction ‘know thyself’. One way of reading the image would suggest that all seemingly universal truths, all apparently trustworthy knowledge or authoritative maps, are partial and untrustworthy in that they conceal a hidden social ordering. This may be seen in the analogous role of the jester who confirms the king’s power through mocking him. The jester’s costume is of course the origin of the term motley. Just as the jester’s motley is an assemblage of heterogeneous components, so, too, is our mapping of the world. The moral is that we need to remind ourselves of the role of the jester or the trickster in order to avoid taking our knowledge for truth—thus becoming victims of our own folly.
But the jester is also the trickster, a mythological figure in a vast range of cultures: the monkey god in India; the spider in Africa; the coyote in America; Loki in Scandinavia are some examples. The trickster is the spirit of disorder, the enemy of boundaries…. The trickster warns us to be wary of such boundaries and divides. The trickster is also a performer and should remind us that history telling is also a performance; we in the academic West make too much of representation and neglect the performative side of knowledge making and knowing the world. We who purport to be historians, sociologists, or cultural critics, are also tricksters.
I have decided to run with this jester theme; it embraces the spirit that this blog hopes to embody. For any queries feel free to email me: