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.