Alumni Profile

Ieva Jusionyte MA'07, PhD'12 discusses her career in ethnographic research

Photo by Brown Dog Studios

Ieva Jusionyte MA'07, PhD'12 came to Brandeis from Lithuania in 2006. She is now an Assistant Professor of Anthropology and Social Studies at Harvard University, where she studies the implications of border policies in Latin America. Her first book, “Savage Frontier: Making News and Security on the Argentine Border,” documented the lives of journalists on the "Triple Froniter" between Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay. Her second book, “Threshold: Emergency and Rescue on the U.S.-Mexico Border,” will investigate the experience of first responders working along the boarder between Mexico and the United States. Dr. Jusionyte recently shared some insights from her scholarship with us and provided recommendations for students considering careers in ethnographic research and Anthropology. 

Coming from Lithuania, what first attracted you to Brandeis? 

I came to Brandeis on a Fulbright Fellowship for my Master’s degree in Anthropology. The Anthropology Department was strong in my areas of interest, and the faculty were very welcoming, which made Brandeis one of my top choices among all the universities in the U.S.

What first interested you about Latin America as an area of study? 

My interest in Latin America first emerged and developed through literature. I remember reading Jules Verne, later Jorge Luis Borges, and imagining a region so different and so far away from my home. Sitting in my room on the outskirts of Vilnius, wrapped up in a wool blanket, I was daydreaming about adventures in the Amazon. Later, when I began my graduate studies in anthropology at Brandeis, this fascination found more solid ground in ethnography and history. After my first trip to Chile and Argentina, I knew that this was indeed a region where I wanted to spend more time, getting to know its ways of life. People often wonder why a Lithuanian is studying Latin America. There are many answers to this question, but the most important one is that I value the possibilities opened up through traverse, or diagonal, engagement between parts of the world that have different experiences of political and economic marginalization: as a Lithuanian, who spent my early years growing up in a country occupied by the Soviet Union, I appreciate learning from communities that have been subjected to other forms of structural violence (right-wing military rule, neoliberalism). Instead of impeding cross-cultural understanding, my unusual background (which sets me apart from many other scholars of Latin America here in the U.S.), has helped me relate to the people I work with in Argentina and now in Mexico, as well as in other countries across the region.

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Categories: Alumni Profile
Date: April 20, 2017