Since 1997 I have conducted fieldwork in South America and more recently have begun a new project here in Edmonton.
My book Shamanism and Vulnerability in the North and South American Great Plains, forthcoming from the University Press of Colorado, draws upon more than twenty years of fieldwork in Guaraní-speaking indigenous communities in Bolivia and Paraguay. The book documents historical and contemporary parallels between the societies of the geographically similar North American Great Plains and the South American Gran Chaco regions. I argue that non-indigenous interlocutors – historians, anthropologists, NGO workers, policy makers, government administrators and military forces among others – have misconstrued events, relationships, and social phenomena in these regions because the frameworks they bring to bear are wary of excess human dependency and vulnerability. By contrast, I argue, relevant indigenous frameworks tend to be wary of excess human independence and autonomy.
Since 2014 I have begun a new project that studies support workers for intellectually disabled adults in Edmonton. The research focuses on friendship and the ways that calls for inclusion are realized in practice. In contemporary urban settings, friendship plays a unique role in creating social cohesion. Most other kinds of relationships in modern societies fall partially or wholly under the framework of legal contract and are thus amenable to political contestation: marriage, child-rearing, employment, education, property ownership. Friendship is, as a result, both less and more political than are these other relationships. Less because it is not under the direct sway of political influence and more because it shows the limits of political struggle itself.