All posts tagged: featured


The first fluency I lose when I do not soak in a language every day is intimacy. I become stiffly polite, reverting to the formal ‘you’: σας in Greek, usted in Spanish. The words for oppression and bureaucracies, on the other hand, are the last to abandon me.

Spectacles of death

Reflections on motherhood and weapons systems, public death in Syria, and the spectacle of dying in a Greek hospital

Grief elves

I have carried grief in my bones for so many years that I do not notice its weight unless it becomes acute. I do not hear its noise unless it shouts at me.

The work of politics

What does it look like to do political work in the every day? Voting is not the only political act. We need to look beyond the realm of high, formal politics to the politics that govern which lives are grievable. I keep reading, particularly among liberal allies who share a lot of the policy priorities but who do not necessarily actively practice political work between elections, is that “we must start working.” To them, I earnestly say: Welcome. The work has been going on — slowly, quietly, invisibly, in the margins, often done by the most marginalized.


On my last day in Guatemala seven years ago, I bought myself a ring. I had never worn rings prior to this. I was not looking for a ring. But as I wandered the streets in a farewell nod to a place I had called home that year, this small jade ring felt welcome in my life. I had just completed the first year of work in a new field for me. It has turned out to be my life’s work. I had just begun living in the questions I now call home. The most gratifying part was that I knew it then–I had the inklings of a person who had just stumbled into a question in which she had wanted to live. The ring looked like an eye and I have worn it on my right hand every day for the past seven years. There was the day it fell behind a radiator in Kentucky and I turned a whole house upside down looking for it, fearing the dog had eaten it. There was the night I thought …

Ethnographies of celebration

Colombians know how to honor an occasion, from love to loss, with an unstated but palpable awareness that most celebrations carry a tinge of both. As a fellow anthropologist remarked after the third glass of a wine on a Wednesday, this country inspires an “ethnography of rumba.” This is a story of what happens in the margins of research.

Estranged tongues

Naming ghosts of patriarchy and misogyny was a feminist project to which I have committed my life with little hesitation or regard for propriety (ever the fear raised to caution people away from uttering powerful words). Except, somewhere along the way, I became more comfortable exporting this project to other domains rather than finding the words for it in my homeland. The same can be said for tolerating all other manners of abuse–racism, anti-immigrant sentiment, xenophobia–for which the words felt foreign or the battles felt like they were someone else’s to fight. Is that not a form of complicity in oppression, disguised under the banner of foreignness?

Our honest places

It is the smell that catches you first. You open the front door gently, a skill you learned when you were 15 and tried to glide into your house without anyone noticing you are wearing blush. You didn’t know then that mothers can detect makeup on their daughters with infrared vision, even if the teen magazines swear that it’s a “natural neutral look.” But you did know just how to turn the key so the door doesn’t squeak and which tiles to step on so you do not wake up the whole house. This is how you still enter your childhood home, even though your cheeks can shimmer without inspection.It is always the smell. It does not emanate from the people. It is steeped in the place. You have left and returned here before, but you always somehow forget about the smell. It escorts you from room to room. You feel larger than life and play Alice in Wonderland with the objects of your childhood. Were the shelves always quite so low? Were the curtains …

My Greece

Homes are committed to my memory in color. Cairo was the dance between beige and gold. Jerusalem was rosy-hued. Guatemala was terracotta. Uganda was red. Greece is a memory in green and blue. It is frappe foam at the bottom of a cup and sand in the anti-itch cream. The constant waving of arms above a salad to chase the flies away from the feta. It is sand trapped in your sunscreen, flicked onto your legs by children racing to the sea. It is grains of sand and salt at the roof of your mouth. It is sand between your toes, sand everywhere. Sunscreen spots on a Kindle. The constant turning of pages, the squint of eyes reading in the sun. The redness of a nose or a shoulder that got away from the constant lathering. Body heat on the sheets. Turning over the pillow for a sunburned cheek to meet its cool match. The strumming of a bouzouki at a tavern, the jingle of the same six summer songs. Everyone hums the lyrics. Three …