(781) 283-3468
B.A., New York University; M.A., Ph.D., University of Michigan
PNE 346

Elizabeth Falconi
Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in Anthropology

Linguistic anthropology, Mexico & the U.S., migration and transborder communities, citizenship, indigeneity, language and social inequality, narrative, language shift and revitalization

I recently joined the faculty of the Department Anthropology at Wellesley College as a Mellon Post-Doctoral Fellow for 2012-2014.  My research focus on the intersection of language, migration, and community grew out of my own life experiences living across linguistic, cultural, and national borders in Latin American and the United States.  Using the analytic lens of storytelling, I investigate how linguistic and cultural practices are impacted by processes of migration, and, conversely, how linguistic and cultural practices shape patterns of mobility. 

My current project is based on long term, ethnographic research on a transborder community formed by migration between San Juan Guelavía, a rural village in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca, and Los Angeles, California.  I found that for highly dispersed populations shared forms of narration, discursive patterning, and reflexive forms of talk can be a powerful means of instantiating, and maintaining community.  I argue that these discursive patterns and processes of circulation enable Guelavians in Oaxaca, Los Angeles and elsewhere to constitute a “narrated community.” The concept of narrated community offers an alternative to scholars who suggest that transnational migration erodes communities, creating “deterritorialized subjects,” by describing how the Guelavian transborder community is maintained, while also emphasizing the challenges of fragmentation and transformation.  For example, historical and contemporary forms of marginalization targeting indigenous communities in both Mexico and the U.S. are bound up with two simultaneous processes of language shift (away from Zapotec towards English and Spanish) among Guelavian youth on both sides of the border.  These processes of shift complicate efforts of Guelavians to maintain relationships and bonds of community across time and space. 


Recent Publications:

Falconi Elizabeth (in press) “Transborder Contact: Shifting Patterns of Linguistic

Differentiation in a Zapotec Community” to appear in International Journal of the Sociology of Language, Special Theme issue “Indigenous Languages in Contact”

Falconi, Elizabeth (2013) “Storytelling, Language Shift and Revitalization in a Transborder

Community: ‘Tell it in Zapotec!’” in American Anthropologist, Vol. 115 (4)

Falconi, Elizabeth (2011) Dissertation: Migrant Stories: Zapotec Transborder Migration and the

Production of a Narrated Community


I currently teach:

·         The Power of Words: Language and Social Inequality in the Americas

·         The Mexico of Anthropology

·         Methods: The Tales that We and They Tell

·         Life Across Borders: Language, Migration and Culture in Latin America