Professor Gastón Gordillo was born and raised in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He graduated from the University of Buenos Aires (1990) and completed his PhD at the University of Toronto (1999). He is a Guggenheim Fellow, was a visiting scholar at Harvard and Yale, a visiting professor at Cornell, and a resident fellow at the Bellagio Study Center in Italy. His research has been funded by (among others) the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, and four grants from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC). His most recent book is Rubble: The Afterlife of Destruction (2014, Duke University Press), which won Honorable Mention for the Victor Turner Prize in Ethnographic Writing. His book Landscapes of Devils: Tensions of Place and Memory in the Argentinean Chaco (2004, Duke University Press) won the American Ethnological Society Sharon Stephens Book Prize.
Research interests: terrain, place, territory and materiality; racialized geographies; insurrections and revolution; violence; affect and the body; ruins and ruination; agro-ecological and climate activism; agribusiness, deforestation, infrastructures and soy supply chains in South America; Argentina; campesinos and Indigenous people of the Gran Chaco.
In my current ethnographic project (funded by an Insight Grant from SSHRC), I’m analyzing how deforestation by agribusiness in the Gran Chaco region is racialized and made possible by the infrastructures of the soy supply chains and how this project is challenged by campesino and Indigenous social movements who are generating agro-ecological territories in the name of defending life and the commons. This project builds from my earlier work on the local perceptions of the ruins and debris of colonialism and capitalism that exist in this region, which led to my book Rubble: The Afterlife of Destruction (Duke University Press, 2014; Honorable Mention, Victor Turner Prize for Ethnographic Writing).
In parallel to my ongoing research in various areas of northern Argentina, I’m close to completing a book entitled Here Comes the Horde: Racial Geographies of the Argentine Multitude, which draws from a decade of research on the racialization of space, crowds, and political conflicts in Argentina. This book proposes to rethink Argentine history and its cycles of political violence through an analysis of the racialized geographies contested by multitudes on the streets. In particular, I examine past and contemporary struggles that have challenged the Argentine elites’ attempts to whiten space through genocidal violence and mass European migration. Conceptually, the book examines the affective geographies of whiteness and how the fear of non-white hordes, and the calls to repress them violently, has been constitutive of colonialism and white supremacy worldwide. I show how the case of Argentina helps shed light on the spatiality of similarly racialized anxieties in North America and Europe about the “invasion” by non-white people fleeing poverty, violence, and climatic disruptions, a phenomenon that is poised to intensify as the climate crisis worsens.
Other topics I have published about include Indigeneity, the spatiality of memory, hegemony, Indigenous mobilizations and land claims, ethnicity, borders, commodity and ID-paper fetishism, shamanism, and the subjectivities of experiences of alienation, domination, and contestation. I have analyzed these questions drawing on my ethnographic experience among Qomle’ec (Toba) people of the Gran Chaco on the Pilcomayo River between 1987 and 2003, and among Guarani activists in the sugar-producing region of the provinces of Salta and Jujuy between 2004 and 2011.
- 2014. Rubble: The Afterlife of Destruction. Durham: Duke University Press (Honorable Mention, Victor Turner Prize for Ethnographic Writing; see PDF of the book’s introduction here).
- 2006. En el Gran Chaco: antropologias e historias (In the Gran Chaco: Anthropologies and Histories). Buenos Aires: Prometeo.
- 2005. Nosotros vamos a estar aca para siempre: historias tobas.(We’re Going to Be Here Forever: Toba Histories). Buenos Aires: Biblos.
- 2004. Landscapes of Devils: Tensions of Place and Memory in the Argentinean Chaco. Durham: Duke University Press. [Winner of the AES Sharon Stephens Book Award; Spanish translation, Lugares de diablos: tensiones del espacio y la memoria. Buenos Aires, Prometeo, 2011].
- 2002. (with Juan Martin Leguizamon) El rio y la frontera: movilizaciones aborígenes, obras públicas y Mercosur en el Pilcomayo (The River and the Border: Indigenous Mobilizations, Public Works, and Mercosur on the Pilcomayo). Buenos Aires: Biblos.
- 2011. (with Silvia Hirsch, eds) Movilizaciones indígenas e identidades en disputa en la Argentina (Indigenous mobilizations and contested identities in Argentina). Buenos Aires: Flacso-La Crujía.
- 2023. Hostile Terrain: On the Spatial and Affective Conditions for Revolution. Territory, Politics, Governance. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/20438206211001023
- 2021. The Power of Terrain: The Affective Materiality of Planet Earth in the Age of Revolution. Dialogues in Human Geography. 11(2): 190-194 (Commentary on Stuart Elden’s “Terrain, Politics, History”).
- 2020. Se viene el malón: las geografías afectivas del racismo argentino. Cuadernos de Antropología Social. 52: 7-35.
- 2020. Gravity: On the Primacy of Terrain. In Voluminous States: Sovereignty, Materiality, and the Territorial Imagination, edited by Franck Billé. Pp. 159-172. Durham: Duke University Press.
- 2019. The Metropolis: The Infrastructure of the Anthropocene. In Kregg Hetherington, ed. Infrastructure, Environment and Life in the Anthropocene. Pp. 66-94. Durham: Duke University Press.
- 2018. Terrain as Insurgent Weapon: An Affective Geometry of Warfare in the Mountains of Afghanistan. Political Geography. 64: 53-62.
- 2018. The Luminescence of Rubble. (Author’s Response to Special Forum on book Rubble). Cultural Dynamics. 30(1-2): 122-127.
- 2016. The Savage Outside of White Argentina. In Rethinking Race in Modern Argentina. Edited by Eduardo Elena and Paulina Alberto. Pp. 241-267. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
- 2013. The Void: Invisible Ruins on the Edges of Empire. In Imperial Debris. Ann Stoler, ed. Pp. 227-251. Durham: Duke University Press.
- 2013. Bringing a Place in Ruins Back to Life. In Reclaiming Archaeology: Beyond the Tropes of Modernity. Alfredo González-Ruibal, ed. Pp. 323-336. London: Routledge.
- 2011. Longing for Elsewhere: Guaraní Reterritorializations. Comparative Studies in Society and History 53(4): 855-888.
- 2011. Ships Stranded in the Forest: Debris of Progress on a Phantom River. Current Anthropology 52(2): 141-167.
- 2009. The Ruins of Ruins: On the Preservation and Destruction of Historical Sites in Northern Argentina. In Archaeologies and Ethnographies: Iterations of the Past. Lena Mortensen and Julie Hollowell, eds. Pp. 30-54. Gainsville: University Press of Florida.
- 2008. Places and Academic Disputes: The Argentine Chaco. In Companion to Latin American Anthropology. Dedorah Poole, ed. Pp. 447-465. Oxford: Blackwell.
- 2008. The Clientelization of Ethnicity: Party Hegemony and Indigenous PoliticalSubjectivities. Journal of Latin American Cultural Studies. 17(3):335-348.
- 2006. The Crucible of Citizenship: ID-Paper Fetishism in the Argentinean Chaco. American Ethnologist. 33(2): 162-176.
- 2003. Shamanic Forms of Resistance in the Argentinean Chaco: A Political Economy. The Journal of Latin American Anthropology 8(3): 103-125.
- 2002. The Dialectic of Estrangement: Memory and the Production of Places of Wealth and Poverty in the Argentinean Chaco. Cultural Anthropology 17(1): 3-31.
- 2002. Locations of Hegemony: The Making of Places in the Toba’s Struggle for La Comuna, 1989-1999. American Anthropologist 104(1): 262-277.
- 2002. The Breath of the Devils: Memories and Places of an Experience of Terror. American Ethnologist 29(1): 33-57.