Bret Gustafson

Bret Gustafson

​Associate Professor of Sociocultural Anthropology
PhD, Harvard University

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office hours:

  • Tuesday 2:00 - 4:00 pm​
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  • WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY
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    ONE BROOKINGS DR.
    ST. LOUIS, MO 63130-4899

​Bret Gustafson's work focuses on the anthropology of politics and the political, with a particular interest in Latin American social movements, state transformation, and the politics of development.

Gustaphson came to these questions through work with Indigenous movements in Bolivia and Guatemala. One set of interests revolves around the conjoined politics of language, race, and decolonization, questions he pursued through a study of the Guarani movement and neoliberal school reform in Bolivia (New Languages of the State: Indigenous Resurgence and the Politics of Knowledge in Bolivia, Duke, 2009). He continues to engage, research, and write on Guarani, and on Indigenous language and education issues in Bolivia and across Latin America. He has also extended his interests in the politics of race, inequality, and education through an ongoing collaborative project on school reform in St. Louis.

His work with the Guarani – given the impact of recent natural gas development across their territory – led to another line of inquiry into energy politics and extractive industries in Latin America. This book project explores hydro-carbons and state transformation in Bolivia, as seen through the Chaco region and the lives of the Guarani and their neighbors, and through the wider geocultural politics of neo-developmentalism and energy integration with Brazil. As with his work on education politics, his interest in Bolivian gas has led me into conjoined explorations of, and teaching on, the cultural politics of fossil fuels in the U.S.

Selected Publications



On the cultural politics of nature, resources, and territory:



2012 “Fossil Knowledge Networks: Industry Strategy, Public Culture, and the Challenge for Critical Research.  In Flammable Societies: Studies on the Socio-Economics of Oil and Gas. Edited by J.A. McNeish and O. Logan. London: Pluto.



2011 "Flashpoints of Sovereignty: Natural Gas and Spatial Politics in Eastern Bolivia." In Crude Domination: An Anthropology of Oil. Edited by A. Behrends, S. Reyna, G. Schlee. London: Berghahn.



2011 Remapping Bolivia: Resources, Territory and Indigeneity in a Plurinational State. Santa Fe: SAR Press (co-edited with Nicole Fabricant).



2010  Autonomia e articulação: o gas natural e as transformações das regiões e do poder na Bolívia e Brasil.  In Região e poder: representações en fluxo. Dilamar Candida Martins, Izabel Missagia de Mattos, and Mauro Victoria Soares, eds. Goiania: Editora PUC Goias. Pp. 37-58.



2010  When States Act Like Movements: Dismantling Local Power and ‘Seating’ Sovereignty in Bolivia. Latin American Perspectives 37(4):48-66.



2009  Manipulating Cartographies: Plurinationalism, Autonomy, and Indigenous Resurgence in Bolivia. Anthropological Quarterly 82(4):985-1016.



2006  Spectacles of Autonomy and Crisis: Or, What Bulls and Beauty Queens Have to Do With Regionalism in Eastern Bolivia. Journal of Latin American and Caribbean  Anthropology 11(2):351-379.



On the politics of knowledge, language, and indigeneity:



In progress  (w. F. Jullqa and A. Jiménez) “The Politics and Policy of Language Revitalization in Latin America and the Caribbean.” 



In press  “Intercultural Bilingual Education in the Andes: Political Change, New Challenges, and Future Directions.”



2010 Rethinking Intellectuals in Latin America. Frankfurt and Madrid: Vervuert  (co-edited with Mabel Moraña).



2009 New Languages of the State: Indigenous Resurgence and the Politics of Knowledge in Bolivia. Durham: Duke University Press.