Academic Work

Luciana focuses her ethnographic research on Central America. Her earlier scholarship addressed the politics of memory in Nicaragua. She wrote a prized undergraduate thesis on how re-membering the Nicaraguan revolution by narrating events of displacement, return, loss, violence and repair constitutes an ongoing process that involves active re-ordering, selecting, framing, and forgetting of experience(s) in order to make sense of the past, but is also indispensable for navigating the political present and imagining the future.

More recently, she has been writing an ethnography of contemporary politics in Nicaragua, where a self-professed “socialist” and “revolutionary” regime has returned to power. Traversing these fields of inquiry, her work addresses questions of the relationships between memory, politics and emotions, as well as the problem of language and representation.

‘Love is Stronger than Hate: Popular Politics in the ‘New Times’ of Sandinismo (Ongoing dissertation project )

This dissertation investigates the ‘return’ of comrade Daniel Ortega to power in Nicaragua.

51770030Campaigning on a platform of “love, reconciliation, and forgiveness,” the FSLN radically transformed its image. It left behind the discourse of anti-capitalism and class struggle that characterized the Sandinista revolutionary project, and adopted a rhetoric that borrows figures from Christianity and new age spirituality, evoking “love” as the driving force of the “new times” of Sandinismo. This November, Ortega will run for the seventh consecutive time for President, and his wife, Rosario Murillo joins him on the ballot as candidate for vice president while their children occupy important positions in private companies funded using Venezuelan aid money. This dissertation research focuses on the sentimental idioms that guide New Sandinismo’s political platform, and concerns itself especially with the language of love, family and Christianity that it employs. How and with what effect do politicians and their local representatives mobilize this language?

Through ethnographic methods and discourse analysis centered on concrete usages of this sentimental idiom in national political rituals and local exchange networks, I will investigate the rise of a new political discourse and its effects in the consolidation of a new dictatorial political system in Nicaragua. The research will yield a dissertation that contributes to the study of the transformation of leftist politics in Latin America, as well as to anthropological inquiry into the relationship between sentiment and political mobilization.

This project is supported by the Social Science Research Council Pre-Dissertation Development Grant (2015), and a Columbia University Travel Fellowship (2016-2017)

Narrating the Nicaraguan Civil War: an Ethnographic Account of Re-membering in San Juan del Norte, Nicaragua (2012).

Winner of the Stanley J. Stein Senior Thesis Prize and the Senior Thesis Prize in Anthropology of Princeton University.


Based on two months of participant observation and two months of archival research, the thesis explores how the process of remembering functions in contemporary San Juan del Norte as a “knowledge-making” practice. San Juan del Norte is a small town that was destroyed in 1984 during the Nicaraguan Civil War. Its inhabitants sought refuge in UNHCR camps in Costa Rica, and organized to return to Nicaragua together in 1991, resettling 20 km away from their original town.

I focus on analyzing people’s own theories about their experiences –of the war, loss, violence, repair, among other themes– in order to gain access to how they construct knowledge and make sense of the instances of instability, displacement and social rupture lived during the war and in the present. The act of narrating the past involves the active re-ordering, selecting, framing, and forgetting of experience(s) in order to make sense of the past, but also to experience the present and imagine the future.

Supported by a Paul Sigmund Summer Scholarship Award  (Princeton University).

The Re-Emergence of Self-Employment in Cuba: The Incorporation of New Practices Into The Planned Economy (2011)

After a set of economic reforms in late 2010, thousands of Cubans have obtained licenses start small private businesses. This paper contextualizes the re-emergence of self-employment policies in Cuba (which began in the early 1990’s), analyzes the shifts in official discourse on self-employment throughout the last twenty years, and explores the experience of starting a business from the perspective of new entrepreneurs in Vedado, Havana.

I also reflimg_0330ect on the visible shifts in the architecture of the city with the emergence of new —and increasingly diverse— consumption options, as expressions of the “wants” of an emerging class of consumers in Havana. Though “privatization” may seem to contradict the Cuban socialist project, I suggest that providing self-employment licenses while also indirectly restricting the functioning of these new private businesses has enabled the State to partially re-incorporate thousands of Cubans who were operating in the informal sector into the state economy (the visible, tax-paying, “legal” economy). Nevertheless this incorporation undoubtedly re-negotiates the means and ends of revolution, and the meaning of socialism in Cuba —which has been an ongoing process.