Joanne Rappaport




Department of Anthropology
General profile



+1 202-687-7170

Alt. phone





472 ICC

Office hours

M 1-2:30 pm, W 1-2:30 pm


Joanne Rappaport, an anthropologist with a joint appointment in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese and the Department of Anthropology at Georgetown University, received her Ph.D. in sociocultural anthropology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1982. Her interests include: ethnicity, historical anthropology, new social movements, literacy, race, collaborative research methodologies, and Andean ethnography and ethnohistory.

Dr. Rappaport has published four single-authored books in English: Cumbe Reborn: An Andean Ethnography of History (University of Chicago Press, 1994; Cumbe renaciente: Bogotá: Editorial Instituto Colombiano de Antropología e Historia and Popayán: Editorial Universidad del Cauca, 2005), The Disappearing Mestizo: Configuring Difference in the Colonial New Kingdom of Granada (Duke University Press, 2014), Intercultural Utopias: Public Intellectuals, Cultural Experimentation, and Ethnic Pluralism in Colombia (Duke University Press, 2005; Utopías interculturales: Bogotá: Editorial Universidad del Rosario/Popayán: Editorial Universidad del Cauca, 2008), and The Politics of Memory: Native Historical Interpretation in the Colombian Andes (Cambridge University Press, 1990; Duke University Press, 1998; La política de la memoria: Editorial Universidad del Cauca, Popayán, Colombia, 2000). Cumbe Reborn and The Politics of Memory explore the nature of the historical memory in northern Andean communities and the relationship between the oral memory and written historical documentation. Intercultural Utopias, the product of collaborative research with indigenous activists from the Regional Indigenous Council of Cauca, is a study of indigenous intellectuals and cultural planners in Colombia. The Disappearing Mestizo examines what it meant to be a mestizo (of mixed parentage) in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries in what is today Bogota. Drawing on lively vignettes, it reveals the fluidity of processes of identification that were rooted in an epistemology entirely distinct from modern racial discourses.

A fifth book co-authored with art historian Tom Cummins, Beyond the Lettered City: Indigenous Literacies in the Andes, was published in 2012 by Duke University Press; it explores the ways in which European literate conventions (both in terms of alphabetic writing and narrative pictorial representation) impacted the nature of native memory in the northern Andes of what is today Colombia and Ecuador. Winner of 2012 Bryce Wood Award of the Latin American Studies Association for outstanding book on Latin America in the social sciences and humanities published in English in the United States and of the 2012 Katherine Singer Kovacs Prize of the Modern Languages Association for outstanding book published in English or Spanish in the field of Latin American and Spanish literatures and cultures. In 2015 she received the Distinguished Achievement in Research Award from Georgetown University for Beyond the Lettered City.

Along with Graciela Bolaños, Abelardo Ramos, and Carlos Miñana, she is the author of ¿Qué pasaría si la escuela . . .? Treinta años de construcción educativa (Popayán: Programa de Educación Bilingüe e Intercultural, Consejo Regional Indígena del Cauca, 2004), a history of the Bilingual Intercultural Education Program of the Consejo Regional Indígena del Cauca (CRIC), Colombia's oldest indigenous organization. Based on collaborative research with CRIC activists and published by the organization, this book attempts to narrate CRIC history using conceptual models originating in the organization itself.

Her next book project will focus on participatory research methods in Colombia in the 1970s, centering in particular on the work of Orlando Fals Borda and the Rosca de Investigacion y Accion Social on the Caribbean Coast, based on work with Fals Borda's personal archive. She edited a special issue of Tabula Rasa (no. 23, 2016), an interdisciplinary journal in Colombia, containing articles by Georgetown graduate students who have worked with Fals Borda's archive.

She also edited a special issue of the Journal of Latin American Anthropology (vol. 1, no. 2, 1996) entitled Ethnicity Reconfigured: Indigenous Legislators and the Colombian Constitution of 1991, which analyzes the implications for native peoples of the creation of a pluriethnic state in Colombia. Contributing authors include Robert Dover, Les Field, Jean Jackson, Myriam Jimeno, Jocelyn Linnekin, Guillermo Padilla, and Joanne Rappaport.

She also edited a volume, Retornando la mirada: una investigación colaborativa interétnica sobre el Cauca a la entrada del milenio (Popayan: Editorial Universidad del Cauca, 2005). The product of collaborative research among U.S. anthropologists, Colombian academics, and indigenous activists, it examines the impact of the indigenous movement on the politics of the southern department of Cauca in the wake of the 1991 Constitution. Contributors include Myriam Amparo Espinosa, David D. Gow, Bettina Ng'weno, Adonias Perdomo, Susana Pinacue, and Joanne Rappaport.

Most recently, in collaboration with Les Field of the University of New Mexico, she edited a special issue (vol. 4, 2011) of the journal Collaborative Anthropologies, focusing on collaborative research methods in Latin America. Field and Rappaport also wrote an introduction to this special issue.

Dr. Rappaport has also published in a variety of scholarly journals, including American Ethnologist, Collaborative Anthropologies, Colonial Latin American Review, Hispanic American Historical Review, History Workshop Journal, Journal of Anthropological Research, Journal of Latin American Anthropology, Journal of Spanish Cultural Studies, Man, Revista Colombiana de Antropología, Social Analysis, and Varia História, as well as in numerous edited volumes. Her research has been funded by the Council for the International Exchange of Scholars Fulbright Fellowship Program, the Fundacion de Investigaciones Arqueologicas Nationales (Colombia), the Getty Grant Program, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Science Foundation, the Social Science Research Council, the U.S. Department of Education Fulbright Program, and the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, as well as by Georgetown University and by the University of Maryland Baltimore County. She has been a fellow at the National Humanities Center and the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study.

Joanne Rappaport is an editor of the journal, Latin American and Caribbean Ethnic Studies and of the Narrating Native Histories series of Duke University Press. She is currently serving as president of the Latin American Studies Association.


  • Ph.D. (1982) University of Illinois at Urbana, Anthropology
  • A.M. (1981) University of Illinois at Urbana, Anthropology
  • B.A. (1975) Kirkland College, Anthropology


  • Spanish (speak, read, write)