Anthropologist Liliana Goldín is a CLACS affiliated professor in the Silver School of Social Work, and a faculty research associate at the McSilver Institute for Poverty Policy and Research. Her research focuses on the intersections of economy and culture in Guatemala, and the ways in which primarily Mayan populations of the Central and Western Highlands negotiate the impacts of globalization in relation to migration, labor, and consumption.
In 2009, Goldín published Global Maya: Work and Ideology in Rural Guatemala, which was based on more than 10 years of field research in Guatemala. The book uses an interdisciplinary approach, relying on both ethnographic research with rural Mayan communities and surveys, to document cultural and economic changes in the region.
Goldín says her aim was to show that ideas about making a living are constructed in the process of practice. “In a non-linear way, we are the result and the motivation of what we do and how we do it. This empirical study of the workings of ideology and practice shows the ongoing transformations that are taking place in rural Guatemala in the context of global processes and local initiatives and responses,” she says.
She began teaching at NYU in 2011, and came on full-time this year. Goldín began her teaching career at SUNY Albany, where she worked for over 15 years. Most recently she taught in the Global and Sociocultural Studies program at Florida International University At NYU, she teaches MSW and PhD courses on international development and poverty reduction, global inequalities, qualitative methods, and contemporary social theory.
Originally from Argentina, Goldín received a B.A. from the Universidad de Buenos Aires, and began her graduate study at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid. While studying in Madrid she traveled to Guatemala for the first time. She went on to get a PhD in Anthropology at SUNY Albany, where she made her first extended research trip to Guatemala, spending an initial 14 months there followed by many subsequent trips.
For the last few years she’s been working with populations in Guatemala’s Central Highlands, focusing her research on the maquiladora factories, which make clothes worn in the U.S. and Europe. “The communities are traditionally agricultural and they still work on farms on the weekend, but many now work in the factories during the week. They work under very difficult conditions in the factories,” Goldín says. She explains how garment workers in this region work long hours—sometimes forced to work more than 30 hours straight—and are not permitted to eat or drink during their shift. Those who work primarily with sewing machines sit on hard wooden benches with no backs, and are sometimes insulted by their supervisors.
In addition to this research, Goldín is working on a project that looks at youth employment in the same region of Guatemala using data collected from 2006-2009, which focuses on her broader interest in how households find ways of supporting each other in rural areas. She’s also working on a very new project to develop a regional history of the Western Highlands, focusing on one family’s history to show some of the economic, social, and cultural patterns in the region.