- Dr Ainhoa Montoya
- BA (hons) [Universidad Autónoma de Madrid]; MPhil [University of Cambridge]; PhD [University of Manchester]
- Reader in Latin American Studies
- Institute of Languages Cultures and Societies
- Centre for Latin American and Caribbean Studies, Institute of Modern Languages Research, School of Advanced Study, University of London, Senate House, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HU
- 020 7862 8875
- Email address:
Research Summary and Profile
- Research interests:
- Globalization & Development, Human rights, Politics, Social Sciences
- Research keywords:
- The anthropology of violence and conflict, the anthropology of democracy, the ethnography of the state, legal anthropology, human rights, transitional justice and memory, environmental humanities
- Summary of research interests and expertise:
I am Director of the Centre for Latin American and Caribbean Studies (CLACS), currently on research leave.
My research expertise spans the fields of political and legal anthropology, geography, and political ecology, with a focus on Latin America.
My current research examines the competing ontologies, moralities, and epistemologies that various actors bring to disputes over territory and the environment. This research aims to understand what forms of evidence, knowledge and imagery are mobilised and legitimised within legal circuits and mechanisms, as well as how law thereby emerges as a particular means of world-making. To conduct this research, I have employed collaborative ethnographic methods with a constellation of actors linked through legal, quasi-legal and legal-like disputes and based in different latitudes of Latin America, the USA and Europe. It has been funded with an ESRC Future Research Leaders Fellowship (2016-2018) and a British Academy Sustainable Development Programme/GCRF award (2018-2021).
I will soon be starting a new research project on cross-border enactments of environmental care in transboundary watersheds of the Americas and Southern Europe (specifically Central America, the Amazon, the Southern Cone, and the Iberian Peninsula). This project is funded by the Spanish Research Agency, the European Union, and the Spanish National Research Council.
A second strand of my research has ethnographically explored how people who have experienced a protracted and violent war make sense of a violent peace, and how their experiences of wartime and contemporary violence shape their participation in politics and their envisioning of democracy. I have published this research in the form of a book-length monograph entitled The Violence of Democracy: Political Life in Post-War El Salvador (Palgrave Macmillan, 2018). I am mentor of a British Academy-funded Newton International Fellowship (2022-2024) held by Gabriel Bayarri which is related to this research.
I welcome enquiries from prospective PhD and postdoctoral applicants in any of the aforementioned areas.
Together with partners from El Salvador, Jamaica, Colombia, and Peru, I am developing a British Academy-funded programme of training for early career researchers in Latin America and the Caribbean entitled ‘Building a Transnational Community of Practice: Writing and Researcher Development in Latin America and the Caribbean’.
I am a co-editor of the Bulletin of Latin American Research, the journal of the Society for Latin American Studies, and sit on the editorial board of the anthropology journal Disparidades: Revista de Antropología.
I am also a co-convenor of the Latin American Anthropology Seminar and the environmental humanities series GERMINATIONS.
Since 2015 I have acted as an expert witness in asylum appeal cases in the UK involving Salvadorans.
Spoken Written French Intermediate Intermediate Spanish Fluent Fluent Portuguese Intermediate Intermediate
- Publication Details
Date Details 01-Jan-2023 Post-extractive juridification: Undoing the legal foundations of mining in El Salvador
01-Jan-2022 Juridificación multiescalar frente a la industria minera: experiencias de Centroamérica y México
ÍCONOS Revista de Ciencias Sociales XXVI(72): 57-78.
With Rachel Sieder and Yacotzin Bravo-Espinosa.
09-Dec-2021 Extractivismo minero en América Latina: la juridificación de los conflictos socioambientales
ÍCONOS Revista de Ciencias Sociales XXVI(72): 7-12.
With Rachel Sieder and Yacotzin Bravo-Espinosa.
01-Sep-2021 Arbitrary Justice: The Fate of Environmental Defenders in Honduras
NACLA Report on the Americas, September 1, 2021.
With Rupert Knox.
15-Aug-2021 Lo transfronterizo como futuro común. Hacia la co-gobernanza de las cuencas hidrográficas compartidas en Centroamérica
In Yacotzin Bravo Espinosa, ed. El derecho y los derechos ante la defensa de los territorios, las formas de vida colectiva y los bienes comunes. Ciudad Autónoma de Buenos Aires: CLACSO, pp. 28-37. ISBN 978-987-722-996-7
29-Mar-2021 On Care for Our Common Home: Ecological Materiality and Sovereignty over the Lempa Transboundary Watershed
Journal of Latin American Studies 53(2): 297-322.
01-Jul-2020 Resource Engagements: Experiencing Extraction in Latin America
Bulletin of Latin American Research 39(3): 285–418. With Amy Penfield.
30-May-2018 The Violence of Democracy: Political Life in Postwar El Salvador
Montoya, Ainhoa. The Violence of Democracy: Political Life in Postwar El Salvador. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
31-Mar-2018 La reedición del conflicto: la política electoral en El Salvador de la posguerra
ECA – Revista de Estudios Centroamericanos 73(752): 45–63.
01-Dec-2015 The Turn of the Offended: Clientelism in the Wake of El Salvador’s 2009 Elections
Social Analysis (Affective States: Entanglements, Suspensions, Suspicions) 59(4): 101–118.
01-Aug-2015 The Value of Open Access in Anthropology and Beyond
Anthropology in Action, 22(2): 42–48.
With Grégory Dallemagne, Víctor del Arco and Marta Pérez.
01-Oct-2014 FAQs about Open Access: The Political Economy of Knowledge in Anthropology and Beyond
Edited with Marta Pérez, Grégory Dallemagne and Víctor del Arco.
01-Jan-2014 Introduction: Ethnographies of the Opportunities and Risks of Neoliberalisation
Anthropology Matters, 15(1), pp. 1–15.
01-Jan-2013 The Violence of Cold War Polarities and the Fostering of Hope: The 2009 Elections in Post-War El Salvador
In Jennifer L. Burrel and Ellen Moodie, eds. Central America in the New Millennium: Living Transition and Reimagining Democracy. New York: Berghahn Books, pp. 49–63.
01-Jan-2011 Review: El Salvador in the Aftermath of Peace: Crime, Uncertainty and the Transition to Democracy, by Ellen Moodie
The Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology, 16(2), pp. 458–460.
Publications available on SAS-space:
Date Details Dec-2015 The Turn of the Offended: Clientelism in the Wake of El Salvador’s 2009 Elections
Drawing on fieldwork in a Salvadoran municipio during and after the 2009 presidential elections, this article explores how the affective dynamics involved in elections and routine politics might inform us about the conditions of possibility for specific political imaginaries. Passions ran high among ordinary Salvadorans on both the left and right, as allusions to wartime unsettled political divisions and offences. For many disaffected Salvadorans, the victory of the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front—a former guerrilla organization—opened up a political horizon previously foreclosed during the post-war era. I show how ordinary Salvadorans’ post-election engagement with state officials and FMLN party leaders through clientelist practices evidenced their desire for qualitative state transformation, as well as the extent to which they conceive of themselves as citizens through the state.
Jan-2013 The Violence of Cold War Polarities and the Fostering of Hope: The 2009 Elections in Post-War El Salvador
Apr-2015 The Value of Open Access in Anthropology and Beyond
This commentary seeks to engage the issue of ‘impact’ in social anthropology by scrutinising the topic of open access. Drawing on the discussions that took place at the interna- tional conference ‘FAQs about Open Access: The Political Economy of Knowledge in Anthro- pology and Beyond’, held in October 2014 in Madrid, we suggest that addressing the topic of open access allows a two-fold goal. On one hand, it elucidates that public debates about open access rely on a rather minimalist notion of openness that does not yield an adequate under- standing of what is at stake in those debates. On the other, we argue that expanding the notion of openness does not only allow us to revisit the debate concerning what we do as academics, how we do it and what its value is, but also to do so going beyond current notions of ‘impact’ and ‘public value’ underpinned by the principle of economic efficiency in a context of increas- ingly reduced research funds.
Oct-2014 FAQs about Open Access: The Political Economy of Knowledge in Anthropology and Beyond
This publication is prior to the conference/workshop FAQs About Open Access – The Political Economy of Publishing in Anthropology and Beyond, held at Medialab-Prado (Madrid) on the 16th and 17th of October 2014. We, as conference conveners and members of the Research Group on Anthropology with a Public Orientation (GIAOP), are interested in the current debates about open access and it is out of that shared interest that this conference emerges. It has been more than a decade since the first declarations for open and free access to publicly-funded scientific knowledge were issued (the Budapest Open Access Initiative in 2002 and the Berlin Declaration on Open Access one year after). Even though the debate has proliferated with strength in the Anglo-American academia in the last few years, we think that the way in which it has done so is extremely narrow, limited to putting forth proposals for how to make academic publications available online —and generally not questioning the business models and the very academic practices that have led to “capture/enclose” knowledge in the first place.
Jun-2014 Ethnographies of the Opportunities and Risks of Neoliberalisation
Dec-2018 The Legal Cultures of the Subsoil: The Judicialization of Environmental Politics in Central America
The Legal Cultures of the Subsoil: The Judicialization of Environmental Politics in Central America is an ESRC-funded anthropological project that explores legal and quasi-legal actions in the context of natural resource governance. Controversies over the fate of non-renewable natural resources have increasingly taken the shape of the jural. This project pursues research on the legal repertoires at work in disputes over subsoil resources (specifically minerals), seeking to achieve an understanding of the different moralities that pervade these repertoires. The project focuses on four Central American countries (El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua) that have been understudied when it comes to non-renewable resources and that share ecological conditions as well as a similar political history, including relatively recent processes of democratization. It also includes research at global sites (Washington, DC, Geneva and London) where key actors involved in legal actions relating to environmental politics are based.
Mar-2018 La reedición del conflicto: la política electoral en El Salvador de la posguerra
Este artículo argumenta que, en El Salvador de la posguerra, amplios sectores de la población han incorporado distintas formas de violencia en sus imaginarios de la democracia, así como en su subjetividad y practices políticas. A partir de la investigación etnográfica realizada en el contexto de las elecciones presidenciales de 2009 y 2014 en el departamento de La Paz, el artículo demuestra que las disputas electorales de la posguerra entre los principales partidos políticos de El Salvador constituyen en cierto modo una reedición de conflictos aún no resueltos que tienen su origen en la guerra de la década de los ochenta. Con la victoria del FMLN en 2009 y el acceso de este partido al gobierno, el enfrentamiento entre los partidos continuó, pero concentrándose en el orden simbólico y discursivo y requiriendo una actualización acorde a las nuevas circunstancias.
Mar-2021 On Care for Our Common Home: Ecological Materiality and Sovereignty over the Lempa Transboundary Watershed
For over a decade, Salvadorean grassroots movements and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) pursued legal innovations with the aim of protecting their water sources from potentially polluting industrial activities such as mining. They initially drafted bans on mining that would preclude the extractive-based development path embraced by neighbouring countries. Eventually, they scaled up their approach and devised a draft proposal for a transboundary waters treaty that addressed the challenges that the ecological materiality of international watercourses poses to national de jure sovereignty. In so doing, the transboundary watershed has become a useful heuristic, a spatial trope to which Salvadoreans have turned to substantiate their claims to sovereignty over the Lempa River waters that El Salvador shares with pro-mining Guatemala and Honduras – claims imbued with an ethics of care rooted in wartime politics and Catholic morality.
Jan-2022 Juridificación multiescalar frente a la industria minera: experiencias de Centroamérica y México
La multiescalaridad es una característica central de la gobernanza neoliberal de los modelos extractivistas que se construyen entretejiendo múltiples niveles y jurisdicciones del derecho público y privado. En este artículo exponemos las complejas relaciones entre el panorama multiescalar de pluralismo legal global que estructura los conflictos socioambientales sobre la minería, los procesos de juridificación y las variadas formas de violencia que motivan las búsquedas de justicia. Señalamos, de manera breve, las dimensiones legales de la minería industrial y exploramos conceptualmente las especificidades de la juridificación multiescalar en relación con esta actividad. A partir de un análisis etnográfico y documental con distintas organizaciones de defensa legal y de base, examinamos tres casos de conflictos socioambientales en Honduras, Guatemala y México. Ello nos permite mostrar cómo la multiescalaridad fragmentada implica que los derechos reconocidos en una jurisdicción se puedan tornar invisibles en otra y acompañarse de un uso represivo del derecho o lawfare. Concluimos que aun en campos de poder marcados por desigualdades abismales y ecologías de violencias múltiples, las luchas juridificadas abren nuevas posibilidades para la movilización social y política. Asimismo, argumentamos que tales luchas facilitan las conexiones entre jurisdicciones, sujetos y lugares, y generan nuevas gramáticas políticas.
Lo transfronterizo como futuro común. Hacia la co-gobernanza de las cuencas hidrográficas compartidas en Centroamérica
Jan-2022 Presentación del dossier. Extractivismo minero en América Latina: la juridificación de los conflictos socioambientales
- Research Projects & Supervisions
The Legal Cultures of the Subsoil: The Judicialisation of Environmental Politics in Central America Institute of Latin American Studies
Project period: 01-Oct-2016 - 30-Sep-2018
Research interests: Civil Rights, Human rights, International Law
Technologies of Democracy in Post-Conflict Settings
British Academy Seed Funding: UK-India Early Career Collaboration
The Juridification of Resource Conflicts: Legal Cultures, Moralities and Environmental Politics in Central America
British Academy Sustainable Development Programme 2018 (Global Challenges Research Fund)
The Legal Cultures of the Subsoil: The Judicialisation of Environmental Politics in Central America
ESRC Future Research Leaders Fellowship
Current PhD topics supervised:
Dates Details From: 01-Oct-2022
Indigenous Voices in International Environmental Politics: The Translation of Worlds between the Amazon and the Conference Room
Sarah Capes (funded by a LAHP AHRC grant).
Embroidery as Protest: Women's Creative Activism in the Movement for Peace in Mexico
Life after Insurgency: The Reincorporation of Ex-Combatants in Colombia
Tatiana Suárez (funded by a LAHP AHRC grant).
Past PhD topics supervised:
Dates Details From: 01-Oct-2015
Autodefensas and the Construction of Citizenship and State-Society Relations in Mexico
Alexander Curry (funded by a LAHP AHRC grant).
The Micropolitics of a Dignified Burial: Contemporary Exhumations of Francoism's Victims and Transnational Cultures of Memory in the Tietar Valley
María Laura Martín Chiappe (funded by an FPU grant). Co-supervised with Prof. Francisco Ferrándiz.
Available for doctoral supervision: Yes
- Relevant Events
Date Details 17-Nov-2018 Stories from El Salvador
Funded by the SAS Public Engagement Fund: https://beinghumanfestival.org/event/stories-from-el-salvador/ https://ilas.sas.ac.uk/about-us/news/historias-de-el-salvador-stories-el-salvador-being-human-festival-latin-village-seven
20-May-2016 Resource Entanglements: Disparate Narratives on Natural Resource Extraction in Latin America
Funded by the Institute of Latin American Studies, University of London.
16-Oct-2014 FAQs about Open Access: The Political Economy of Knowledge in Anthropology and Beyond
Funded mainly by The Wenner-Gren Foundation: http://www.wennergren.org/grantees/montoya-bermejo-ainhoa
Funded also by Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, Medialab-Prado, Consorcio Madroño and Madrid Institute of Anthropology.
04-Jun-2013 The Right to Truth, Justice and Reparation in Latin America
Funded by the Human Rights Consortium and the Institute for the Study of the Americas, University of London.
Other editing/publishing activities:
Knowledge transfer activities:
Details Radio Victoria - Radio Ambulante Podcast
This Radio Ambulante story is the result of a collaboration between Isabel Cadenas Cañón and Ainhoa Montoya (Centre for Latin American and Caribbean Studies, School of Advanced Study, University of London) funded by the Economic and Social Research Council of the United Kingdom (ESRC ES/N017870/1).
Radio Ambulante is distributed by NPR.
Inspection of Country of Origin Information Report on El Salvador
Inspection of Country of Origin Information Report on El Salvador. Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration. UK Home Office. (With David Cantor).
- Consultancy & Media
- Available for consultancy: