Fulbright Allows Anthropology Ph.D. Candidate to Study in Guatemala

January 17, 2023

Lilianna Quiroa-Crowell will conduct research for a dissertation on Indigenous women in the neglected city of Puerto Barrios.

Lilianna Quiroa-Crowell
Lilianna Quiroa-Crowell is one of two Graduate Center Anthropology students to receive a prestigious Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad grant in 2022. (Photo courtesy of Lilianna Quiroa-Crowell)

Graduate Center Ph.D. candidate Lilianna Quiroa-Crowell (Anthropology) received a grant from the prestigious Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad (DDRA) program to conduct research in Guatemala for one year for her dissertation on the coastal city of Puerto Barrios and its urban Indigenous communities.

Once a hub of the banana industry in Central America and a main port for much of the 20th century, Puerto Barrios today is isolated, forgotten, and considered dangerous, Quiroa-Crowell said.

She is studying how the city and its female Indigenous inhabitants have been rendered essentially invisible on the Caribbean coast of Guatemala. Specifically, she is looking at how different representations and narratives of the city of Puerto Barrios materialize racial hierarchies of who does or does not belong in the city. Her project explores how corporate and state maps shape how different urban spaces are valued, who is imaged to reside or not reside in them, and how this influences residents’ mobility, political demands, and more.

“My project asks how this geographic erasure is experienced, grappled with, and resisted by local Q’eqchi’ women through their everyday actions,” she said.

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While in Guatemala, she will visit the national archives and will organize a participatory cartography project in Puerto Barrios. She will work alongside Indigenous community members to create alternative maps of the city that represent their own spatial knowledge. The project will culminate in a public exhibition.

“I am most excited to return to Guatemala, specifically as a researcher and to join scholarly conversations on space and justice,” Quiroa-Crowell said. “I look forward to reconnecting with local researchers and activists and to participate in-person on conversations regarding the social and spatial dynamics of Puerto Barrios, especially across the Indigenous Q’eqchi’ communities. Receiving this award is both humbling and empowering, as I am eager to participate in Guatemalan and international circles alongside fellow Fulbright researchers.”

For fellow students interested in applying for a Fulbright, she recommends starting the process early and consulting others.

“My grant application’s strength is due in part to the many conversations, careful line edits, and example grants that fellow graduate students willingly passed on to me,” she said. “Discussing my project with doctoral students outside of my discipline pushed me to clarify my scholarly objectives and learn to better communicate my interests in a way that resonates with a wider audience.” She added that her professors’ recommendations about new literature and thinkers “pushed my project into interesting new spheres.”

Quiroa-Crowell is one of two Graduate Center Anthropology Ph.D. candidates to receive a Fulbright-Hays grant in 2022. The other, Eliza Marks, will study in Jordan.

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