PhD Student Juan Carlos Rico Noguera wins Whiteford Cultural Anthropology Field Work Scholarship

The Department of Anthropology is pleased to announce that the inaugural Whiteford Cultural Anthropology Field Work Scholarship was awarded to PhD student Juan Carlos Rico Noguera. With the financial support of MSU Anthropology alumni Aaron and Jill Whiteford, the Whiteford Cultural Anthropology Field Work Scholarship has been established to support graduate students in sociocultural anthropology in their field work endeavors, with preference given to those students conducting research in Latin America.

Rico Noguera’s research involves different ways of understanding the human experience, including the conceptual definition of the State, the role experts have in modern politics, and the way collective memory is produced by political agents. In particular, his research focuses on the Colombian armed conflict, which began in 1964. According to Rico Noguera, after almost 60 years of political violence, it is difficult to find a common understanding over questions such as: what are the causes of the Colombian political violence? Who is responsible for massive human rights violations, such as forced disappearing, targeted killings, massacres, forced displacement, torture, and kidnapping? Paintings in walls across the country, like the one pictured below, dispute pervasive narratives suggesting Colombia is a regular and stable democracy by reminding people of the prevalence of targeted killings that have become hallmarks of political violence.

A mural in Colombia reads, “They are disappearing us.”

Rico Noguera is interested in contributing to a better understanding of Latin American social processes and the Colombian politics associated with how its violent past is collectively evoked. Further, Rico Noguera intends to explore how communities with very different experiences and understandings of the Colombian past engage with transitional justice mechanisms. His research will involve institutions such as the Truth Commission and other organizations who have a legal obligation to clarify human rights violations and the causes of those violations.

The funds from the Whiteford Cultural Anthropology Field Work Scholarship will enable Rico Noguera to cover research expenses for the first phase of his dissertation research in Colombia. This phase of research will explore how three different communities engage with the Colombian State and its duty to remember 50 years of armed conflict. The first phase of this ethnographic study will take place in the offices of the “Institutional Memory” group, belonging to the Colombian National Police.

Rico Noguera would like to express his gratitude to Aaron and Jill Whiteford, as their generosity is enabling Rico Noguera to begin his dissertation field work in Colombia. Rico Noguera notes that the Whiteford scholarship has provided him with a vital asset in the scholarly world: a vote of confidence. He plans to use both the funds and confidence gained from the Whiteford scholarship to seek further funding and successfully complete his dissertation field work. Additionally, Rico Noguera expresses his appreciation for the guidance and support of his dissertation committee: Dr. Elizabeth Drexler (chair), Dr. Lucero Radonic, Dr. Mindy Morgan, and Dr. Edward Murphy.