Show The Graduate Center Menu

Victoria Sanford
Position: Professor
Campus Affiliation: Lehman College
Degrees/Diplomas: PhD Stanford, 2000; Human Rights Certificate, Inter-American Institute for Human Rights, Costa Rica.
Research Interests: Genocide, Feminicide, Gender Violence, Displacement, Migration, Human Rights, Humanitarian Law, Indigenous Rights to Ancestral Lands, Child Soldiers, Gangs, Organized Crime, Police in Post-Conflict Societies, Video Ethnography, Translation, Guatemala, Colombia, Mexico.
Subfield: Cultural Anthropology

Victoria Sanford is Professor of Anthropology and Founding Director of the Center for Human Rights and Peace Studies at Lehman College. She is a member of the Anthropology Doctoral Faculty at the Graduate Center and an Affiliated Scholar at the Center for the Study of the Holocaust, Genocide, and Crimes Against Humanity, City University of New York. She holds a doctorate in Anthropology from Stanford University where she studied International Human Rights Law and Immigration Law at Stanford Law School. She was a Bunting Peace Fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Studies, Harvard University. 

She is the author of Buried Secrets: Truth and Human Rights in Guatemala  (Palgrave Macmillan 2003), Violencia y Genocidio en Guatemala  (FyG Editores 2003),  Guatemala: Del Genocidio al Feminicidio (FyG Editores 2008),  La Masacre de Panzos: Etnicidad, Tierra y Violencia en Guatemala (FyG Editores 2009), Guatemala: Violencia Sexual y Genocidio (FyG Editores 2020 with Sofia Duyos Alvarez & Kathleen Dill) and co-author of the Guatemalan Forensic Anthropology Foundation's report to the Commission for Historical Clarification (the Guatemalan truth commission). She is co-editor (with Katerina Stefatos and Cecilia Salvi) of Gender Violence in Peace and War ~ States of Complicity (Rutgers University Press 2016). She is also co-editor (with Asale Angel Ajani) of Engaged Observer: Anthropology, Advocacy and Activism (Rutgers University Press 2008). 

Her publications in American Anthropologist, The Journal of International Peacekeeping, The Journal of Human Rights, Genocide Studies International, Political Transitions, the Encyclopedia of Crime and Punishment, Cultural Critique, Social Justice, Latin American Perspectives and Harvard’s ReVista have examined the role of truth commissions and NGOs in community healing, local peacebuilding and justice-seeking efforts in Guatemala and Colombia as well as offered anthropological analyses of violence and genocide.   She has presented and published her work in Guatemala, Mexico, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Colombia, Canada, Puerto Rico, Ecuador, South Africa, Spain, the UK, Northern Ireland, Austria, Slovenia, Denmark, Japan, South Korea, Norway, England, France, and Germany, among others. She has published opinion editorials in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, El Faro (El Salvador), Plaza Pública (Guatemala), Agencia EFE (Spain), and; and, has given some 40 interviews to radio, TV and print media in the United States, Guatemala, El Salvador, the Netherlands, Germany, and Spain – including the New York Times, PBS Evening News Hour and CNN.  


A public anthropologist, in August of 2012, she served as an invited expert witness on the Guatemalan genocide before Judge Santiago Pedraz in the Spanish National Court’s international genocide case against the Guatemalan generals. She won the 2016 University of California Press Public Anthropology competition for her latest book project –The Surge~Central American Border Crossings in the United States, 1980-2015. She recently completed Bittersweet Justice: Feminicide & Impunity in Guatemala. She is the recipient of many awards including the John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship, MacArthur Consortium Fellowship, United States Institute for Peace Fellowship, Virginia Foundation for the Humanities Fellowship and three Fulbright Fellowships, among others.

Selected Publications









Selected Articles and Chapters:

  • “Women as State Targets: Systematic Gender Violence during the Guatemalan Genocide,” (co-author with Kathleen Dill and Sofia Duyos-Alvarez), reprint, Bemporad, Elissa and Joyce Warren, Eds., Women and Genocide, Indiana University Press, 2018.




  • Estructuras de Violencia en Guatemala,” In Mackenbach, Werner, Ed., La transformación de la violencia en América Latina – dinámicas del cambio de la violencia en la sociedad y en la literatura, Guatemala City: F&G Editores, 2015.


  •  “Command Responsibility and the Guatemalan Genocide: Genocide as a Military Plan of the Guatemalan Army under the Dictatorships of Generals Lucas Garcia, Rios Montt, and Mejia Victores,” Genocide Studies International 8, 1 (Spring 2014): 86–101. © 2014.



  • Reprint of “From I Rigoberta to the Commissioning of Truth:  Maya Women and the Reshaping of Guatemalan History,” Cultural Critique, No. 47, 2001, In Contemporary Literary Criticism, (2013) Vol. 332, Gate Group.


  • “Why Truth Still Matters:  Impunity and Justice in Contemporary Guatemala” in Aronson, Cynthia, Ed., Comparative Peace Processes in Latin America, Stanford, CA:  Stanford University Press and Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, 2012.




  • Sanford, Victoria. “Bridging the Emotional Gulf:  Reflections on the Intimacy and Distance of Exhuming Traumatic Memories” in Archaeological Review from Cambridge, Special Issue on “The Disturbing Past-Does Your Research Give You Nightmares?” Edited by Alison Klevnas and James Holloway, vol. 22:2, 2007, 17-23.


  • “Anthropologies of Violence and Resistance,” American Anthropologist, Invited Review Essay of Moser, Carolyn and Cathy McIlwaine, 2004.  Encounters with Violence in Latin America, Nordstrom, Carolyn, 2004. Shadows of War, and Stewart, Pamela and Andrew Strathern, 2004. Violence-Theory and Ethnography, American Anthropologist, Vol. 108, No. 3 September 2006, 534-537.


  • “Learning to Kill by Proxy:  Colombian Paramilitaries and the Legacy of Central American Death Squads, Contras and Civil Patrols,” Journal of Social Justice, Vol.30, No. 3 (2003).




Selected Opinion Editorials and Letters to the Editor




Visual Anthropology

Documentary Film

  • Colombia: Peace Communities (Producer, Director, Writer: 55 minute film)