Krista Van Vleet

Assistant Professor of Anthropology

(on leave for the spring 2017 semester)

Krista Van Vleet

Contact Information
Sociology And Anthropology

Adams Hall - 315

Krista Van Vleet is a cultural anthropologist who specializes in the study of gender and kinship; religion and transnationalism; narrative, performance, and identity in Latin America, particularly the Andes. She is interested in the intersections of power and inequality in everyday life, the local groundedness of transnational relationships, and the embodied and dialogical production of subjectivities. She has received a PhD (1999, Michigan) and MA (1994, Michigan) in Anthropology, a Graduate Certificate of Women’s Studies (1998, Michigan), and a BS (1987, Beloit) in Biochemistry. She is currently Director of the Latin American Studies Program.


Since 1995 my ethnographic research has focused on the ways that native Andeans produce and negotiate “relatedness” in their interactions with each other. My first book Performing Kinship: Narrative, Gender, and the Intimacies of Power in The Andes (2008, University of Texas Press) explores the talk and actions through which kinship and gender are produced and negotiated in the rural higlands of Bolivia. The book intertwines personal narratives, gossip, folk stories, and interviews with detailed observations and descriptions of people’s actions and and interactions in Bolivia at the end of the 20th century. The book explores topics such as ideologies of family and practices of adoption and fostering, violence between women and their in-laws (both men and women), changing marriage practices, gender and ethnic identities among adolescents, and the impacts of migration to urban centers on rural communities. The book has been reviewed in several journals including American Anthropologist, American Ethnologist, Bulletin of Latin American Research, Current Anthropology, Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology, and Signs.

My more recent analyses of informal and clandestine adoption in Bolivian urban spaces and the production of masculinity and ethnicity in stories of fighting ritual battles have extended this research. Reflecting on the dissolution as well as the creation of social bonds has resulted in an analysis of the narratives told by Catholics about the devil possession of recent converts to evangelical Protestants.

My current research draws upon my long-standing interests in narrative, performativity, and power in new ways by tracing the articulations of gender and family in religious discourse in Cusco, Peru and Sucre, Bolivia. Drawing on photographic/visual methodologies and narrative analyses the project aims to complicate understandings of “Andean” religion by exploring the embodied performances of gender, race, and sexuality in a context of transnational movements of people, images, ideas, and commodities. My ethnographic research is situated in multiple arenas including a home for teenaged mothers and their children and a family-run evangelical Protestant church. Rural to urban migrants, long-time urban residents, foreign tourists and volunteers, local and foreign missionaries, state officials and policy makers circulate within (and sometimes between) these spaces, requiring a rethinking of family and gender in the Andes.


My teaching has covered a diverse range of topics and my courses have been cross-listed in Gender and Women’s Studies, Latin American Studies, and Gay and Lesbian Studies.

Courses required for majors include:
Introduction to Cultural Anthropology
Anthropological Research
Contemporary Issues in Anthropology (Senior Seminar)

Topical courses include:
Tasting Hierarchies: Food in Latin America (First Year seminar)
Global Sexualities/Local Desires
Transnational Cosmologies: Religion in the Andes
Gender and Family in Latin America
Culture and Power in the Andes
Language, Identity and Power
Discourses of Emotion



2011. Making Families through Adoption. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. (Co-author, Nancy E. Riley)

Performing Kinship Narrative, Gender, and the Intimacies of Power in the Andes(2008) Performing Kinship Narrative, Gender, and the Intimacies of Power in the Andes. Austin: University of Texas Press.

Selected Articles

(Under review) “Catholic Ambivalence, Religious Conversion, and the Reconfiguration of Sociality in Andean Devil Stories.” Anthropological Quarterly Special Issue on “The Ethics of Dissolution” (Ilana Gershon and Alice Alexy, eds.)

2010. “Narrating Violence and Negotiating Belonging: The Politics of (Self-) Representation in an Andean Tinkuy Story.Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology. 15(1):195-221.

2010. “Afterword: Cross-Cultural Implications of Japanese Heritage Language Policies and Practices.” Critical Asian Studies 42(2):246-255.

2009. “We had already come to love her”: Raising Children at the Margins of the Bolivian State.Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology (Special Issue on Adoption in Latin America) 14(1):1-23.

2003 “Adolescent Ambiguities and the Negotiation of Belonging in the AndesEthnology 42(4):349-63.

2003 “Partial Theories: Gossip, Envy, and Ethnography in the Andes” Ethnography 4(4):1-29.

2002 “The Intimacies of Power: Rethinking Violence and Kinship in the Andes,” American Ethnologist 29(3): 567-601.

2002 “Repensando la violencia y el parentesco en los Andes d Bolivia.” T’inkazos 5(12):11-39. La Paz, Bolivia: PIEB.

1998 “The Dialogics of Southern Quechua Narrative” Co-authored with Bruce Mannheim. American Anthropologist 100(2): 326-346.

Selected Fellowships, Grants, and Awards

Fletcher Family Fellowship, Bowdoin College, 2009-2011“Religious Orphanages and Transnational Understandings of Family in Cusco, Peru.”

Faculty Leave Supplement, Bowdoin College, 2009-2010. “Fostering Care and Conversion: Andean Conceptions of Family, Adoption, and Christianity in Bolivia and Peru.”

“Systematic Techniques for Digital Video Data Collection and Analysis,” Short Course on Research Methods in Anthropology, National Science Foundation, July 27-31, 2009. Duke University Marine Laboratory, North Carolina. 

Course Development Award, Bowdoin College, 2006. “Religion in the Andes: From the PreColumbian Period until the Present.”

Richard Carley Hunt Postdoctoral Fellowship, Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, 2003. “Performing Kinship: Narratives of Intimacy, Embodiments of Power in the Bolivian Andes.”

Thomas Criscenti Prize for Best Article, 2003, New England Council of Latin American Studies. Awarded for“The Intimacies of Power: Rethinking Violence and Kinship in the Andes” (American Ethnologist, 2002).

Kenan Fellowship, Bowdoin College, 2002-2005. “Transnational Cosmologies: Narrating Identity and Power among Migrants and Missionaries in the Bolivian Andes.”