IDCE Faculty

Liza Grandia, Ph.D.


Assistant Professor of International Development and Social Change


  • Clark Profile
  • International Development and Social Change

  • Please note: Professor Grandia is on sabbatical for all of calendar year 2011.


    • Ph.D. in Anthropology, University of California, Berkeley, 2006
      Postdoc in the Program in Agrarian Studies, Yale University, 2006-07
      B.A. in Women's Studies (summa cum laude), Yale University, 1996

    Research Interests

    Anthropology and political economy: Q'eqchi' Maya, Guatemala, and Mesoamerica; food security, peasants, and agrarian change; international development; corporate trade and globalization; social movements; hegemony and cultural control; consumer capitalism; and the commons

    Political ecology: biodiversity conservation; green neoliberalism; indigenous cultural survival; population, development, and environment; gender and natural resource management; environmental justice; and the politics of cancer

    Biography and Research Projects

    Liza Grandia joined the Clark faculty in the fall of 2007. For the International Development and Social Change program, she has developed courses in cultural anthropology, the political economy of corporate capitalism, rural development and agrarian change, the history of foreign aid and empire, and development project management.

    In the 1990s, her scholarship focused on multi-sectoral approaches to community-based conservation. In tandem with this research, she has collaborated since 1993 with a Guatemalan environmental NGO called ProPetén in the greater Maya Biosphere Reserve region to expand the typical conservation package of forest and park management into new arenas such as health, organic agriculture, ethnobotany, gender and ethnic equity, environmental justice, and agrarian reform. Most notably, between 1997-2000, she founded an integrated health and environment program called Remedios, which established family planning services for more than half a million people living in northern Guatemala. After ProPetén's separation from Conservation International in 2003, she became a founding member of its board of directors.

    Since 2000, she has turned her attention to the agrarian struggles of the Q'eqchi' Maya, Guatemala's second largest indigenous group who live around most of the country's lowland protected areas. Her first book, Tz'aptz'ooqeb'(published in Spanish in 2009 by one of Guatemala's leading social science research institutions, AVANCSO) explores the recurring dispossession of the Q'eqchi' people over the past five centuries by the Church, coffee, cattle, conservation, charity, and corporate trade. Her second book,Enclosed: Conservation, Cattle and Commerce among the Q’eqchi’ Maya Lowlanders (2009, University of Washington Press) explores in more detail how and why this indigenous group has been driven into conflict with biodiversity conservationists as a result of neoliberal trade and infrastructure projects financed by international development banks across the region. To disseminate this ethnographic research locally, she worked with ProPetén, Oxfam International, and other Guatemalan organizations to produce a film, “Territory: The Path to our Roots” (“Li Qana'aj: Li B'e Re Xtawb'al li Qaxe'”) that documents how Q'eqchi' smallholders are losing their parcels to African palm plantations and cattle ranchers in the wake of a World Bank land administration project.

    Across the border in Belize, Dr. Grandia accompanied Maya communities as an expert witness in two constitutional land cases in 2007 and 2010 that resulted in historic rulings in favor of the Q'eqchi' and Mopán Maya plaintiffs. In awarding Maya communities customary land rights, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Belize cited at length testimony from the expert witnesses, including evidence presented by Professor Grandia. To encourage more of such collaborative activism between academics and communities, in 2006, Dr. Grandia launched the Q'eqchi' Scholars Network. Anyone interested in joining this listserv should contact her by email.

    Books and Monographs

    • In press. Enclosed: Conservation, Cattle and Commerce among the Q’eqchi’ Maya Lowlanders. University of Washington Press "Culture, Place and Nature" Series.

    Selected Articles and Chapters

    2009. “Silent Spring in the Land of Eternal Spring: The Germination of a Conservation Conflict.” Current Conservation 3(3):10-13.

    2009. “Raw Hides: Hegemony and Cattle in Guatemala's Northern Lowlands.” Geoforum, “Land, Labor, Livestock and (Neo)Liberalism: Historical and Contemporary Transformations in Pastoralism and Ranching,” special volume edited by Nathan Sayre.

    2009. “Milpa Matters: Maya Communities of Toledo v. Government of Belize” in Waging War, Making Peace: Reparations and Human Rights. Eds. Barbara Rose Johnston and Susan Slyomovics. Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast Press. 153-182.

    2007 “Between Bolivar and Bureaucracy: Biodiversity Conservation and the Lost Potential of the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor.” For a special edited volume, “Engaging Neoliberal Conservation,” Eds. Jim Igoe and Dan Brockington, Conservation and Society 5(2): 478-503.

    2007. “The Tragedy of the Enclosures': Rethinking Primitive Accumulation from the Guatemalan Hinterland.” Agrarian Studies Colloquium Series, Yale University. Institution for Social and Policy Studies, April 27.

    2005 (November). "Appreciating the Complexity and Dignity of People's Lives: Integrating Population-Health-Environment Research in Petén, Guatemala." FOCUS. Report of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, Environmental Change and Security Program (ECSP). Issue 10. 12 pp.

    2001. “Look At The World Through Women's Eyes: On Empathy and International Civil Society.” Identity Politics in the Women's Movement. Ed. Barbara Ryan. New York: New York University Press. 291-304.

    1999. “From Dawn ‘Til Dawn: Valuing Women's Work in Guatemala's Petén.” In Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Tropical Forest, ed. James D. Nations. Washington, DC: Conservation International. 39-46.

    1998 (with C. Reining and C. Soza). “Illuminating the Petén's Throne of Gold: The ProPetén Experiment in Conservation-Based Development.” In Timber, Tourists, and Temples: Conservation and Development in the Maya Forest of Belize, Guatemala, and Mexico, eds. Richard Primack et al. Washington, DC: Island Press. 365-388.

    Popular Writing Samples

    2006 (December 17). Op-ed: “The Sober Racism of Mel Gibson's Apocalypto.” Common Dreams News Center.
    2005 (July 27). Op-ed: “CAFTA to Hurt Guatemala, U.S. Workers.” Birmingham Post Herald. Pp. A9.

    2005 (July 26). Op-ed: “Hidden in the 2,400 Pages of CAFTA.” San Diego Union Tribune. Pp. B7.

    2005 (April 5). Op-ed: “An Honest Mistake?” Common Dreams News Center.

    2005 (March/April). Commentary to Mac Chapin's “A Challenge to Conservationists.” World Watch Magazine. Pp. 11.

    2002 (February 4). Op-ed: “Public Water Systems Need Commitment.” Atlanta Journal and Constitution.


    Community Development and Planning
    Aid and Empire
    Controlling Capitalism
    Peasants, Rural Development and Agrarian Change
    Development Program and Project Management/Seminar

    Environmental Science and Policy
    Peasants, Rural Development and Agrarian Change
    Development Program and Project Management/Seminar

    Geographic Information Sciences for Development and Environment
    Peasants, Rural Development and Agrarian Change
    Development Program and Project Management/Seminar

    International Development and Social Change
    Peasants, Rural Development and Agrarian Change
    Aid and Empire
    Controlling Capitalism
    Peasants, Rural Development and Agrarian Change
    Development Program and Project Management/Seminar

    Related Links

    Liza Grandia in the News

    [ Publications ]

    Another World is Possible

    Tz'aptz'ooq'eb': El Despojo Recurrente al Pueblo Q'eqchi'. Guatemala City: AVANCSO (Asociación para el Avance de las Ciencias Sociales en Guatemala with Siglo XXI Editores).