Maria J Mendez Gutierrez

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My research is situated at the intersection of multiple disciplines—political theory, international relations, anthropology, and political economy—with a regional focus on Central America. It is characterized by three overarching themes. First, I am interested in studying the illicit and subaltern worlds that occur below, beside, and in resistance to the liberal global economy. Second, I approach these worlds by engaging the voices of those in the social margins, like women gang members in Central American prisons, migrants stuck in the border zones of Mexico, or indigenous people defending their land in Honduras. Third, informed by these perspectives I articulate conceptual tools to reframe contemporary questions of violence, and to excavate new forms of survival under global capitalism that point to ways in which economies and polities are being re-organized by non-state actors. In bringing these themes together, my research is committed to theorizing about illicit and subaltern worlds with ethnographic and historical research that centers marginalized people.

Educational Background & Specialties

Educational Background

  • PhD: Political Science, University of Minnesota, Expected May 2020 .
  • BA: Political Science, French and Francophone Studies, with Honors & Phi Beta Kappa, Vassar College, 2010.

Curriculum Vitae


  • Political Theory
  • International Relations
Courses Taught
  • POL 3235W Democracy and Citizenship
  • Mendez Gutierrez, Maria J. "The violence work of transnational gangs in Central America." Third World Quarterly 40:2 (2019): 373-388. Link
  • Mendez Gutierrez, Maria J. ""The River Told Me": Rethinking Intersectionality from the World of Berta Cáceres." Capitalism Nature Socialism 29:1 (2018): 7-24. Link
  • Mendez Gutierrez, Maria J, Quỳnh N. Phạm. "Decolonial Designs: José Martí, Ho Chí Minh, and Global Entanglements." Alternatives 40:2 (2015): 156-173. Link
  • The Charlotte W. Newcombe Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship, Woodrow Wilson Foundation, 2019 - 2020
  • Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowship, American Council of Learned Societies [declined], 2019 - 2020
  • FTGS Award, Feminist Theory and Gender Studies Best Paper, International Studies Association, 2019
  • Edward Said Award, Global Development Section's Best Paper, International Studies Association, 2018
  • Dissertation Proposal Development Fellowship, Social Science Research Council, 2016