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Lynn Stephen: Why Central American Women Fleeing Violence Seek Asylum

Date: October 14, 2019
Time: 6:00pm
Address: Fed Ex Global Education Center, Room 1005, 301 Pittsboro Street, Chapel Hill, NC

The George and Ann Platt Distinguished Lecture presents Lynn Stephen. Dr. Stephen is the Philip H. Knight Chair and Distinguished Professor of Arts and Sciences, a Professor of Anthropology, and a participating faculty member in Ethnic Studies, Latin American Studies, and Women’s and Gender Studies. She founded the Center for Latino/a and Latin American Studies (CLLAS, and served as director for 9 years (2007-2016). She served as President Elect and President of the 12,000 member Latin American Studies Association from 2017-2019.

Her scholarly work centers on the impact of globalization, migration, nationalism and the politics of culture on indigenous communities in the Americas. She engages political-economy, ethnohistory, gender analysis, and ethnography to create a hemispheric lens on major challenges faced by indigenous peoples (out-migration, tourism, economic development, and low-intensity war) and their creative responses to these challenges. Her work engages the history of Latino communities spread across multiple borders through her concept of transborder communities and migrations. She has a strong commitment to collaborative research projects that produce findings accessible to the wider public and her work includes films such as Sad Happiness: Cinthya’s Transborder Journey ( and websites (see as well as scholarly publications. She recently finished a book titled Stories that Make History: Remembering Mexico through Elena Poniatowska’s Crónicas, that will be published by Duke University Press. With co-editor Shannon Speed, she is completing an edited book provisionally titled, Heightened States of (In)justice: Indigenous Women Seeking Gendered Justice,” to be published by University of Arizona Press.

Her current collaborative research explores the structural opportunities and challenges that facilitate and impede indigenous women’s access to gendered justice in Guatemala and the U.S. She explores this question through comparative research on two routes to gendered justice that some indigenous Guatemalan women have used: specialized courts for Crimes of Femicide and other Forms of Violence Against Women in Guatemala and gender-based asylum in U.S. immigration courts. Fieldwork is ongoing in several locations in Guatemala as well as in the states of Oregon and Washington in the U.S. Stephen has authored or edited 14 books, three special journal issues and over 80 scholarly articles. She also works actively as a pro-bono expert witness, primarily for indigenous women and men seeking asylum to escape violence in Mexico and Central America. She has served as an expert witness on more than 80 asylum cases or the past six years.