Joshua Mayer

Assistant Professor



Ph.D., 2023, University of California, Los Angeles


I am a political anthropologist interested in the relationships between settler colonialism, imperialism, and Black and Indigenous peoples’ territorial governance in Latin America. Since 2014, I have conducted community-collaborative, ethnographic research with the Rama and Kriol peoples of southeastern Nicaragua. I employ ethnographic methods and anthropological perspectives to understand how people struggle against, formulate alternatives to, or perpetuate systems of exploitation, expropriation, and extraction in their everyday lives.

In my current projects, I use ethnographic methods to understand the varied social worlds that shape Black and Indigenous peoples’ territoriality and dispossession. This long-term research is co-directed by the Rama and Kriol communities; the communities collaborate in the formulation of research questions, research design, the research process, and data analysis. I am currently working on my first book project, tentatively entitled Conjuring Territory: Afro-Indigenous Authority and Settler Capitalism in Nicaragua. The project examines Rama-Kriol political thought and governance practices amid dispossession driven by export-oriented beef and gold production. I am also carrying out a new ethnographic project, Please Steal Responsibly, about the role of human rights and corporate social responsibility actors in the ongoing theft of Indigenous and Afrodescendant lands in Nicaragua. My research has received funding from the National Science Foundation, the Social Science Research Council, and the Fulbright Program.

My areas of teaching interest include theories and ethnography of the African diaspora, Indigenous studies, Latin American social movements, political ecology, critical development studies, and community-collaborative research methods. I also enjoy introducing students to anthropological thinking from a critical perspective.

In addition to my academic work, I serve as a fellow at the Oakland Institute, where I contribute to research and advocacy work related to the dispossession of Black and Indigenous peoples in Nicaragua. I also regularly serve as an expert witness in asylum hearings in the U.S. and U.K. and have testified to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights regarding prior consultation of Indigenous and Afrodescendant peoples. My organizing work in the U.S. centers on abolitionism, workers’ rights, and Palestinian human rights, including with Cops Off Campus, Jewish Voice for Peace, and UAW Local 2865.

I was raised in Portage, Michigan, on the ancestral lands of the Bodéwadmi, Odawa, and Ojibwe peoples. I received a bachelor’s degree in political science from Amherst College, a master’s degree in the social sciences from the University of Chicago, and a doctorate in anthropology from the University of California, Los Angeles. I previously served as a visiting researcher at the Universidad Centroamericana in Managua, Nicaragua.

Research Interests

African diasporic and Indigenous politics, community-collaborative methods, Central America, settler colonialism, territory, imperialism, extraction.


  • ANTH 1000. Peoples and Cultures of the World
  • ANTH/LLAS 3021. Contemporary Latin America
  • AFRA/ANTH 3155. Anthropology of the African Diaspora
Joshua Mayer
Contact Information
Office LocationBeach Hall (BCH) 415