Linda J Seligmann

Linda J Seligmann

Linda J Seligmann

Emeritus Faculty

informal economies and markets, agrarian issues, gender relations, quinoa, culture and food, Latin America, Andean region, Peru; transnational and transracial adoption, U.S., anthropological theory and methods

Professor Emeritus Linda Seligmann is a sociocultural anthropologist who has worked in the Andean region of Latin America for over forty years. She studied at Pomona College (BA, Anthropology), The Institute of Latin American Studies at the University of Texas-Austin (MA, Anthropology and Spanish-American Literature) and at the University of Illinois-Urbana (PhD, Anthropology). She specializes in agrarian issues, including the recent boom in quinoa consumption, Quechua culture, gender relationships, and the dynamics of the informal economy in the Andes. She also completed a comparative research project on transnational and transracial adoption and changing faces of American families in the U.S. (Broken Links, Enduring Ties: American Adoption across Race, Class, and Nation [Stanford, 2013]).

Funded by the Wenner-Gren Foundation, Seligmann recently completed a project on quinoa, a substance that has been of significance to the livelihoods and well-being of Quechua inhabitants in the Andes for centuries.  Her book, Quinoa: Food Politics and Agrarian Life in the Andean Highlands (University of Illinois, 2023), examines how the place, value, and meanings of quinoa have undergone transformations in light of the demand for it internationally as a super-food, taking special account of gender ideologies, labor, household social reproduction, and differing aesthetics with respect to food and cuisine as these dynamics unfold. Her other books include a 42-chapter volume edited with Kathleen Fine-Dare, The Andean World (Routledge, 2018), which offers a comprehensive overview of Andean lifeways; Peruvian Street Lives: Culture, Power, and Economy among Market Women of Cuzco (University of Illinois, 2004), named as an Anthony Leeds Honor book by the Society for Urban, National, and Transnational Anthropology; an edited volume, Women Traders in Cross-Cultural Perspective: Mediating Identities, Marketing Wares (Stanford, 2000); and Between Reform and Revolution: Political Struggles in the Peruvian Andes, 1969-1991 (Stanford, 1995), as well as numerous articles and book chapters.

Dr. Seligmann has been a Fulbright Fellow and also received grants from the Wenner Gren Foundation, the Inter-American Foundation, the Ruth Landes Memorial Research Foundation, Tinker Foundation, and the Organization of American States, and she received the Outstanding Scholar Award in 2005 from the College of Arts and Sciences at George Mason.

Seligmann is fluent in Spanish and Quechua. She served as Contributing Editor on "Highland Ethnology" to the Handbook of Latin American Studies and has published political analyses in  local and national newspapers and journals, including The Washington Post. She has also appeared on the The Diane Rehm Show (NPR), With Good Reason (NPR), and Sapiens. She was the section editor and member of the Board of the Society for Latin  American Studies, served on the editorial board of the Journal of Latin American Studies, and as editor-in-chief of The Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology (2015-2018).  

After serving as the Associate Director of the National Resource Center of the Latin American and Iberian Studies Program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (1988-1990), Seligmann became a Faculty Fellow in the Program in Agrarian Studies at Yale University for a year. She held an assistant professorship at James Madison University (1992-1994) and then joined the Department at George Mason University as assistant professor of anthropology (1994-1995), associate professor of anthropology (1995-2002), professor (2002-2018), and professor emerita (2018-). She also served as Director of the Center for the Study of the Americas at George Mason (1995-1997), Director of the Anthropology Program (2002-2006), and Director of the Graduate Program in Anthropology (2005-08, 2010-13).

Selected Publications


2023  Quinoa: Food Politics and Agrarian Life in the Andean Highlands.  Univ. of Illinois Press.

2018  The Andean World (co-edited with Kathleen Fine-Dare). London: Routledge.

2015  La vida en las calles: Cultura, poder, y economía entre las mujeres de los mercados del Cuzco. Lima: IEP.  [transl. of Peruvian Street Lives]

2013  Broken Links, Enduring Ties:American Adoption across Race, Class, and Nation. Stanford:Stanford University Press.

2004  Peruvian Street Lives:Culture, Power, and Economy among Market Women of Cuzco. Urbana:University of Illinois Press, ("Interpretations of Culture in the New Millennium" series). Cited as an Anthony Leeds Honor Book.

2001 Women Traders in Cross-Cultural Perspective: Mediating Identities, Marketing Wares (edited volume). Stanford:Stanford University Press.

1995 Between Reform and Revolution: Political Struggles in the Peruvian Andes, 1969-1991. Stanford: Stanford University Press.


2020   “Innovations in Ethnographic Methods.” (with Brian P. Estes).  American Behavioral Scientist 64(2):176-197.

2014 “Between Story-Telling and Critical Analysis: Going Native and Crossing Borders.” Anthropology and Humanism 39(1):10-17.

2013 “Occupying the Center:  Handicraft Vendors, Cultural Vitality, Commodification, and Tourism in Cusco, Peru.” (with Daniel Guevara). Built Environment Special Issue, “Marketplaces as an Urban Development Strategy.” 39(2): 203-23.

2009 “The Cultural and Political Economies of Adoption Practices in Andean Peru and the United States. Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology 14(1): 115-139.


2014 “Markets.” Pp. 120-141.  In Blackwell Companion to Urban Anthropology, edited by Don Nonini. Oxford:Blackwell Publishing Co.

2013 “The Politics of Urban Space among Street Vendors of Cusco, Peru.” Pp. 115-36. In Street Economies, Politics, and Urban Social Movements in the Global South.  Karen Tranberg Hansen, Walter Little, and B. Lynne Milgram, eds. Santa Fe: School of American Research.

2012 “Traditions and Transitions:From Market Women in the Andes to Adoptive Families in the U.S.“ pp. 123-37. In The Restless Anthropologist:  New Fieldsites, New Visions.  Alma Gottlieb, Ed. Univ. of Chicago Press.

2012 “Contested Spaces:  Street Vendors in the Andean Metropole of Cusco, Peru.” pp. 117-34. In Anthropology in the City:  Methodology and Theory. Edited by Italo Pardo and Guiliana B. Prato. Ashgate Press, Urban Anthropology Series.

2009 “The Politics of Knowledge and Identity, and the Poetics of Political Economy: The Truth Value of Dividing Bridges.” In Border Crossings: Transnational Americanist Anthropology. Kathleen Fine-Dare and Steven L. Rubenstein, eds. Pp. 34-43. University of Nebraska Press.

2008 “Agrarian Reform and Peasant Studies:The Peruvian Case.” In A Companion to Latin American Anthropology, Deborah Poole, ed.  Pp. 325-351. Oxford:Blackwell Publishing.

Courses Taught

ANTH 114 Introduction to Cultural Anthropology

ANTH 330 Peoples and Cultures of Selected Regions: Non-Western (Culture and Conflict in the Andes)

ANTH 332 Cross-Cultural Perspectives on Globalization

ANTH 339 Issues in Anthropology (Culture and Food)

ANTH 375 Anthropological Perspectives on History

ANTH 385 Gender, Class, and Ethnicity in Latin America

ANTH 390 Theories, Methods, and Issues I

ANTH 490 Theories, Methods, and Issues II

ANTH 536 Anthropology and the Human Condition, II

ANTH 635 Regional Ethnography (Peoples and Cultures of Latin America)

ANTH 650 Ethnographic Methods and Research Design

HNRS 131 Contemporary Society in Multiple Perspectives

LAS 499 Research Seminar in Latin American Studies (Culture and Power, Issues of Development in the Americas)

NCLC 361 Neighborhood, Community and Identity

Recent Presentations

Roundtable, “Uncovering Truths, Building Responsibility in a Pandemic: Insights from Emerging Monographs at the Nexus of Culture, Food, and Agriculture.”  American Anthropological Association Annual Meeting, “Raising Our Voices 2020.” (live-streamed, Nov. 9, 2020).

Visions from the Margins:  The Gastronomical Boom among Small-Scale Quechua-Speaking Agriculturalists of the Southern Peruvian Highlands.“New Visions in Old Peripheries: Global Technopolitics, Local Frictions and Emerging Territorial Projects.” Latin American Studies Association Meetings, Lima, Peru, April 2017.

Emerging Economic Alternatives in the Urban Global South: Intersections of Informality and Formality in Transnational Commodity Flows.  AAA Meetings, Minneapolis, Nov. 2016

Invited Discussant, “Traders in Motion:  Networks, Identities, and Contestations in the Vietnamese Marketplace.” Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology, Leipzig/Halle, Germany, Sept. 25-26, 2014.

Keynote speaker, “Localizing Globalization:Gendered Transformations of Work in Developing Countries.”  Norwegian Research Council and the Department of Anthropology, University of Bergen, Norway. October 31st - Nov. 1st, 2013.

“Handicrafts, Tourist Guides, and Native Cuisine in Cusco, Peru: Cultural Vitality and Commodification.” Session: Tourism, Solidarity, and Imperialism in Latin American-U.S. Relations. Annual meeting of the Latin American Studies Association, San Francisco, CA, May 23-26, 2012.

“The Politics of Urban Space among Street Vendors of Cusco, Peru.” Street Economies, Politics, and Urban Social Movements in the Global South. Invited Session of Society for the Anthropology of Work. American Anthropological Association Meetings. New Orleans, Louisiana, Nov. 2010. 

In the Media

Diane Rehm Show, 1985; Washington Post,  Mysterious Terror of the Shining Path May 24, 1985;  Pacifica News, "WIll U.S. Drug Control Program Destroy Peru's Indian Culture?" News Analysis, 1980

Evan Kleiman, KCRW,  "How the Popularity of Quinoa Strained Peruvian Growers" April 28, 2023

Stentor Danielson, New Books Network "Politics and Society" Interview on Quinoa July 8, 2023

With Good Reason Interview, National Public Radio, "Where'd All the Quinoa Come From? Nov. 19, 2021

Sapiens, "What's the Cost of Quinoa?" December 4, 2018.

With Good Reason Interview, National Public Radio, "Adoption in America" Nov. 23, 2013.