Ellen Moodie

 Ellen Moodie

Contact Information

109 Davenport Hall 607 S Mathews M/C 148 Urbana, IL 61801
Associate Professor
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Additional Campus Affiliations

Biography

Ellen Moodie joined in solidarity with Central Americans in the 1980s. As a student at Indiana University, social-justice and anti-war movements inspired her to trace links between seemingly "ordinary" unmarked lives in Midwestern towns like hers, and events in the volcanic isthmus nearly 2000 miles away. After college she worked for seven years as a daily newspaper journalist in Hudson County, New Jersey. She pounded the police beat, chronicled Garden State corruption--and reported on issues linked to Central American migrants and refugees. She first traveled to El Salvador in 1993 with a sister-cities group.

That same year she entered graduate school at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. There her desire to document and denounce war atrocities, and track the violent postwar transition, grew to embrace the basic questions of social change: "How and when do conditions for possibility arise for transformations in public consciousness?"

Her first book, El Salvador in the Aftermath of Peace: Crime, Uncertainty, and the Transition to Democracy (Pennsylvania 2010), follows the circulation of the phrase “It’s worse than the war” in the years since peace accords were signed in 1992. Her second book, Central America in the New Millennium: Living Transition and Re-imagining Democracy, co-edited with Jennifer L. Burrell (Berghahn 2013), gathers anthropologists who work throughout the isthmus to explore the post-Cold War transition. She has written for American Ethnologist, The Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology, and Social Text, among other academic venues, and has contributed a number of chapters to edited volumes. Her national prominence as a scholar of Central America was marked by the publication in Annual Review of Anthropology of "The Post-Cold War Anthropology of Central America" (November 2015).

She teaches courses on Central America, violence, crime, human rights, social theory, research methods, ethnographic fieldwork, ethnographic writing, the history of anthropological theory, and the anthropology of the city. She has taught workshops on research and analytic methods in El Salvador (focused on violence and on gender), and on ethnographic methods in Cuba.

Her external awards and academic recognitions feature a residential fellowship at the Freie Universität in Berlin (2014); a National Science Foundation grant (2010-2013), and a Wenner-Gren Foundation grant (2008). Over her anthropological career she has won support from Fulbright-Hays, the Social Science Research Council, the United States Institute for Peace, the Organization of American States, and the University of Michigan. At the U of I, she is currently a Conrad Humanities Scholar in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. She received a Unit for Criticism and Interpretive Theory Senior Faculty Fellowship (2016-2018) for her project "Changing Epistemologies in Contemporary Cuba." She won two faculty fellowships from the Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities (IPRH) (2014-15 and 2007-8): four Campus Research Board awards, including one designated as an Arnold O. Beckman Award (2015), as well as a Humanities Release Time award (2013), and the Mellon Post-Doctoral Fellow in the Humanities (2003-5).

Professionally, she has served as the secretary and then co-chair of the Central America section of the Latin American Studies Association (2009-2014), and a councilor for the Society for Urban, National and Transnational Anthropology of the American Anthropological Association. She is involved in the El Salvador Studies Working Group and the Editorial Board for El Faro Academico in El Salvador.

Her public engagement continues long after leaving daily newspaper work. Today she often serves as an expert witness in cases involving Salvadorans fleeing violence and insecurity, and she has spoken and written about the asylum process and the situation in Central America.

Research Interests

  • Political transitions; post-conflict aftermaths; Central America, especially El Salvador; Cuba; political subjectivities, expression, and affect; democracy and social movements; violence, trauma, and human rights; crime, criminalization, and insecurity; structures of inequalities (focused on class, race, and gender); middle classes; youth movements; anthropology of the city; semiosis and narrative; ethnographic methods and writing.

Research Description

Ellen Moodie’s research focuses on how political processes play out in everyday lives. In her first major project she studied after-effects of war and experiences of postwar violence in urban El Salvador. She considered social suffering as shared and shaped in everyday storytelling. She theorized how people's relationships with the state transformed in a much-lauded transition to neoliberal "market democracy." She has tallied more than six years of ethnographic research in Central America since 1993, including a year's sabbatical in El Salvador in 2012-2103.

Her current interest engages what she calls the “post-postwar generation” of activist middle-class youth in El Salvador, a group that has come of age with little or no memory of the country’s twelve-year civil war (1980-1992). She has also collaborated on a project on "post-insurgent subjectivities" among former guerrilla combatants in rural eastern El Salvador, studied short-term Christian mission and service travel, and analyzed sensationalism in mass media. Several years ago she began developing a project in Cuba, as well.

She takes an ethnographic approach to her research. She engages in long-term participant observation, joins in everyday activities and carries out conversational interviews. She talks to public officials and experts as well as many "ordinary" people; scrutinizes mass media coverage and policy debates; follows social media exhaustively, and examines archival records. Her analysis draws broadly from the insights of semiotic and linguistic anthropology.

Education

  • Ph.D., University of Michigan (2002)
  • M.A., University of Michigan (1997)
  • B.A., Indiana University (1985)

External URLs

Selected Publications

Book Contributions

Selling Affect, Seeking Blood: The Economy of Pain at El Mozote, El Salvador Detours: Travel and the Ethics of Research in the Global South Selling Affect, Seeking Blood: The Economy of Pain at El Mozote, El Salvador Tucson University of Arizona 2019.
Moodie, Ellen, and Juan Martínez D'Aubuisson En las llamas de la paz: La quema de un microbús en y los significados de la violencia Violencia en tiempos de la paz: conflictividad y criminalización en El Salvador edited by Oscar Melendez, edited by Adrian Bergmann. En las llamas de la paz: La quema de un microbús en y los significados de la violencia Edited by Oscar Melendez, Edited by Adrian Bergmann, San Salvador, El Salvador Secretaría de Cultura de la Presidencia de El Salvador, Dirección Nacional de Investigaciones en Cultura y Arte 2015.
Moodie, Ellen Unknowing the Other: A Short Essay on Criminalization through Narrative in Postwar El Salvador Post-Conflict Studies: An Interdisciplinary Approach edited by Chip Gagnon, edited by Keith Brown. Unknowing the Other: A Short Essay on Criminalization through Narrative in Postwar El Salvador Edited by Chip Gagnon, Edited by Keith Brown, New York Routledge 2014.
Moodie, Ellen Democracy, Disenchantment and the Future in El Salvador Central America in the New Millennium: Living Transition and Reimagining Democracy edited by Jennifer Burrell, edited by Ellen Moodie. Democracy, Disenchantment and the Future in El Salvador Edited by Jennifer Burrell, Edited by Ellen Moodie, New York/Amsterdam Berghahn/CEDLA 2013.
Moodie, Ellen, and Jennifer L. Burrell Introduction: Ethnographic Visions of Millennial Central America Central America in the New Millennium: Living Transition and Reimagining Democracy edited by Ellen Moodie, edited by Jennifer Burrell. Introduction: Ethnographic Visions of Millennial Central America Edited by Ellen Moodie, Edited by Jennifer Burrell, New York/Amsterdam Berghahn/CEDLA 2013.
Moodie, Ellen Untellable Stories and the Limits of Solidarity in a Sister Community Relationship International Volunteer Tourism: Critical Reflections on Good Works in Central America edited by Abigail Adams, edited by Katherine Borland. Untellable Stories and the Limits of Solidarity in a Sister Community Relationship Edited by Abigail Adams, Edited by Katherine Borland, New York Palgrave Macmillan 2013.
Moodie, Ellen “Es peor que la guerra": Historias de crimen en la posguerra y recuerdos de la guerra en El Salvador Las figuras del enemigo: Alteridad y conflictos en Centroamérica edited by Gilles Bataillon, edited by Benjamin Moallic. “Es peor que la guerra": Historias de crimen en la posguerra y recuerdos de la guerra en El Salvador Edited by Gilles Bataillon, Edited by Benjamin Moallic, San Salvador, El Salvador Dirección National de Investigaciones de la Secretaria de la Cultura y Universidad Evangelica 2012.
Moodie, Ellen Dollars and Dolores in Postwar El Salvador Encounters with Money edited by Allison Truitt, edited by Stefan Senders. Dollars and Dolores in Postwar El Salvador Edited by Allison Truitt, Edited by Stefan Senders, Oxford, U.K. Berg Publishers 2007, p. 43-55.
Moodie, Ellen Como rastrear al delincuente salvadoreño a través del siglo veinte Memoria del Primer Encuentro de Historia de El Salvador edited by Margarita Silva, edited by Carlos Lopez. Como rastrear al delincuente salvadoreño a través del siglo veinte Edited by Margarita Silva, Edited by Carlos Lopez, San Salvador CONCULTURA 2005, p. 225-234.
Moodie, Ellen El Capitán Cinchazo: Blood and Meaning in Postwar San Salvador Landscapes of Struggle: Community, Politics and Society in El Salvador edited by Aldo Lauria-Santiago, edited by Leigh Binford. El Capitán Cinchazo: Blood and Meaning in Postwar San Salvador Edited by Aldo Lauria-Santiago, Edited by Leigh Binford, Pittsburgh University of Pittsburgh 2004, p. 226-244.

Encyclopedia Entries

Moodie, Ellen El Salvador: History South America, Central America, and the Caribbean (Europa Regional Surveys of the World) Abingdon, UK Routledge 2019.

Journal Articles

Moodie, Ellen From Gringa to Yuma: Slow Arrivals to Cuba American Anthropologist 121 3 2019.
Moodie, Ellen, and Jennifer Burrell Introduction to “Behind the Migrant Caravan: Ethnographic Updates from Central America” Cultural Anthropology "Hot Spots" 2019.
Moodie, Ellen Invited commentary on “A Divided Community: The Ethics and Politics of Activist Research” by Christopher A. Loperena Current Anthropology 2016.
Moodie, Ellen, and Jennifer L. Burrell Post-Cold War Anthropology in Central America Annual Review of Anthropology 44 2015.
Moodie, Ellen Inequality and Intimacy between Sister Communities in El Salvador and the United States Missiology: An International Review 41 2013.
Moodie, Ellen Seventeen Years, Seventeen Murders: The Production of Post-Cold War Knowledge in El Salvador Social Text 99 Summer 2009 2009, p. 77-103.
Moodie, Ellen Wretched Bodies, White Marches and the CuatroVision Public in El Salvador Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology Forthcoming 2009.
Moodie, Ellen Microbus Crashes and Coca-Cola Cash: The Value of Death in 'Free-Market' El Salvador American Ethnologist 32 1 2006, p. 63-80.

Books

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Moodie, Ellen Las Secuelas de la Paz: Criminalidad, Incertidumbre y Transición de la Democracia en El Salvador San Salvador UCA Editores 2017.
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Central America in the New Millennium: Living Transition and Reimagining Democracy edited by Jennifer Burrell, edited by Ellen Moodie. Edited by Jennifer Burrell, Edited by Ellen Moodie, New York/Amsterdam Berghahn/CEDLA 2013. Listing.
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Moodie, Ellen El Salvador in the Aftermath of Peace: Crime, Uncertainty and the Transition to Democracy Philadelphia University of Pennsylvania Press 2010. Listing.