Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology

Language Selection

Breadcrumb Navigation

Dr. Catherine Whittaker

Dr. Catherine Whittaker

Alumni / Postdoctoral Researcher

Areas of research and interest

Theoretical und thematic interests: the Anthropology of Politics, Vigilance and Identity; Power, Violence, Racism and Gender; Borders, Migration and Citizenship; Religion, Cosmologies, and Epistemology; Intersectionality and Affect Theory

Regional Interests: Latin America/ Central Mexico, Southwestern U.S. (California), Latin America – U.S. Relations


Ludwig-Maximilians University Munich
Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology
Oettingenstr. 67
80538 München

Work group

SFB-Project “Culture of Vigilance: Transformations – Spaces – Techniques" (2019-2021)

Research project 2019-2023 (German Research Council-funded; Principal Investigator: Prof. Dr. Eveline Dürr):

The vigilance of those mistaken for migrants in the U.S.-Mexican border area

This project examines constellations of vigilance in the border city of San Diego, Southern California: We will analyze the strategies of vigilance employed by individuals, who are at risk of being perceived as undocumented immigrants and thus expect to experience racialized discrimination. We thus investigate forms of vigilance directed towards oneself as well as towards others.

Specifically, we ask how these phenotypical “strangers” respond to overlapping forms of vertical state surveillance and horizontal citizens’ vigilantism by employing practices of vigilance to resist, reproduce, or avoid racism. In what ways are cultures of vigilance inflected by phenotype, ethnic belonging, gender, age, class, and political attitudes? As it profoundly shapes individual and collective ways of being in the world, how does vigilance transform notions of citizenship and illegality, sociality and belonging among border residents in San Diego? What are the material and embodied dimensions of vigilance and life on the border?

This 4-year project is hosted at the Collaborative Research Centre (SFB 1369) “Cultures of Vigilance: Transformations. Spaces. Techniques”.


Refereed Journal Articles

  • 2016: “Sahagún reloaded? The priest, his pyramid, and deliberate syncretism in Milpa Alta.” Mexicon: Journal of Mesoamerican Studies 38(2): 33-35.
  • In Review: “Anthropology and the politics of Indigeneity” Annals of Anthropological Practice (Special issue: ethics in Mesoamericanist research, ed. by W. Little and M. Rees)

Book Chapters

  • Forthcoming: “Los límites del activismo de las mujeres michoacanas: luchando contra el continuo de violencia,” in [title to be announced], ed. by Edgar Guerra. Aguascalientes: CIDE.
  • 2019: “The cosmopolitics of rights and violence in Central Mexico,” in Anthropological contributions for sustainable futures: Research and interventions in the fields of environmental needs, gender equity, human rights and knowledge in South America and the United Kingdom, ed. by S. Alzugaray and J. Taks, pp. 12-15. Montevideo: University of the Republic of Uruguay Press.
  • 2017: “Suckling the snake: Motherly goddess worship and serpent symbolism among contemporary Nahua,” in Motherhood/s and polytheism, ed. by G. Pedrucci, F. Pasche Guignard, and M. Scapini, pp. 495-504. Bologna: Pàtron.


Public Outreach

Manuscripts in preparation

  • With the editor: “A Room of Their Own: Barriers to women’s activism against the continuum of violence in Michoacán, Mexico,” in [title to be announced], ed. by Trevor Stack.
  • In preparation: “Haunting Love: Ethnographic Absences, Uncertainties, and Truths.” Planned for Anthropology & Humanism
  • In preparation: “The paradox of feminine power: Contesting gendered empowerment in Milpa Alta, Mexico City.” Planned for Feminist Anthropology
  • In preparation: Loving Violence: Rethinking Gender, Violence, and Power in Indigenous Mexico. Monograph

Further Information


2019: PhD in Social Anthropology, University of Edinburgh (UK). Thesis title: “Warrior Women: Contested Understandings of Violence and Gender in Central Mexico”

2013: M.Sc. in Social Anthropology, London School of Economics and Political Science (UK)

2012: M.Sc. in Evolutionary und Cognitive Anthropology, University of Oxford (UK)

2011: B.A. in Latin American Studies and Anthropology of the Americas (Minor: Egyptology), University of Bonn (Germany)

Academic Career

  • Since 09/2019: Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Collaborative Research Centre “Cultures of Vigilance”/ Anthropology Institute, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München (LMU)
  • 03/2019-08/2019: Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Center for Citizenship, Civil Society, and Rule of Law, University of Aberdeen (UK): Project, „Activism in Regions of Crime-Related Violence and Fragility“
  • 01/2015-12/2015: Visiting Researcher, Institute for Anthropology and History, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (Mexico City)