Education: Columbia University, Ph.D., 1984.
Office—Department of Anthropology, Vanderbilt University, 124 Garland Hall, Nashville, TN 37235. E-mail—[email protected]
Writer, educator. American University, Washington, DC, former member of anthropology department staff; Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN, chair of the department of anthropology.
Peasants, Entrepreneurs, and Social Change: Frontier Development in Lowland Bolivia, Westview Press (Boulder, CO), 1987.
Teetering on the Rim: Global Restructuring, Daily Life, and the Armed Retreat of the Bolivian State, Columbia University Press (New York, NY), 2000.
The School of the Americas: Military Training and Political Violence in the Americas, Duke University Press (Durham, NC), 2004.
Contributor to journals, including Journal of Latin American Studies and NACLA Report on the Americas.
Lesley Gill teaches anthropology at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. She is a former staff member at the American University in Washington, DC. She focuses her research on Latin American political violence, human rights, global economic restructuring, the state, and transformations in class, gender, and ethnic relations. "I regularly teach a variety of classes that focus on racism, U.S. state policy, Andean Latin America, and political violence," Gill explained in a statement posted on the Vanderbilt University, Department of Anthropology, Web site. Among her books are Peasants, Entrepreneurs, and Social Change: Frontier Development in Lowland Bolivia, Precarious Dependencies: Gender, Class, and Domestic Service in Bolivia, Teetering on the Rim: Global Restructuring, Daily Life, and the Armed Retreat of the Bolivian State, and The School of the Americas: Military Training and Political Violence in the Americas.
In Precarious Dependencies, Gill chronicles the history of domestic service in Bolivia during the twentieth century. She particularly documents the efforts of domestic servants, mostly women, to unionize to better their conditions. Gill draws on both archival materials and interviews with the women involved. Georgina Waylen in the Journal of Latin American Studies found Precarious Dependencies to be an "interesting study" that provides "some fascinating insights into both women's individual responses and collective strategies."
Gill takes another look at Bolivia with Teetering on the Rim. In this study, she examines how miners, school teachers, and military recruits have faced economic hardships because of government policies and have managed to improve their working conditions through grassroots organizing. As Gill stated in her introduction: "This book offers a critique ‘from below’ of what has been called neoliberalism, and it examines how changing forms of state rule are affecting the lives of vulnerable people." According to Alvin Finkel in Labour/Le Travail, Gill's "research suggests that the government's abandonment of workaday people has increased the ranks of the poor and the degree of desperation of the poor." "Gill makes a substantial contribution to the literature on economic restructuring.…," wrote Kathleen Schroeder in Economic Geography. "She brings into sharp focus the impact that neoliberal policies are having in Bolivia."
With The School of the Americas, Gill turned from economics to a study of how the American military has conducted training of Latin American armies over the past fifty years. Through the School of the Americas, now called the Western Hemisphere Institute of Security Cooperation, the United States government has long provided special military training to countries in the region. Some 60,000 military personnel have been trained at the school. Gill argues that this training gives the United States a measure of control over Latin American armies, and a measure of responsibility whenever these armies oppress their own populations. Among the school's graduates are former dictators Hugo Banzer of Bolivia and General Efrain Rios Montt of Guatemala. Gill's book is based on interviews with American and Latin American military personnel, as well as with coca-growing farmers who are often the targets of antidrug military operations. In her acknowledgements, Gill stated: "This book is dedicated to the memory of those Latin Americans who were murdered, tortured, and disappeared by the security forces, and to the peasant coca growers of the Andes who fight against incredible odds to live in peace and dignity. My hope is that the book will contribute to building the kind of world that so many of them have struggled to create—a world based on equality, justice, and accountability."
Gill's book is "a first-rate and thorough examination of the [School of the Americas] and the repressive military apparatus of which it is part," according to Dana Sawchuk in the Canadian Journal of History. Gavin Smith in the Journal of Latin American Anthropology believed that The School of the Americas is a book that, "when it's not knocking the wind right out of you, well it's breathtaking. What makes it so is that it is both unfaltering in its ambition … and persistently aware of the limitations of what such a study can accomplish." "She is at her best, and the book most exciting and original, with the raw material from the interviews," Brian Loveman wrote in the Journal of Latin American Studies. While Michael P. Bobic in Perspectives on Political Science believed that "the author's commitment to Leninism distracts from the argument," he nonetheless concluded that the book was "appropriate for upper-level undergraduate students and for all levels of graduate students." Writing in Latin American Politics and Society, J. Patrice McSherry found that "the book is a useful study of the SOA and a good introduction for students." August Carbonella in the Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute called Gill's study an "important, well-written and timely book." Carbonella concluded: "Gill has produced a book of immense political and theoretical importance. It should be required reading for anyone concerned with peace and justice in our time."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Canadian Journal of History, December, 2005, Dana Sawchuk, review of The School of the Americas: Military Training and Political Violence in the Americas, p. 574.
Economic Geography, October, 2001, Kathleen Schroeder, review of Teetering on the Rim: Global Restructuring, Daily Life, and the Armed Retreat of the Bolivian State, p. 394.
Journal of Latin American Anthropology, November, 2005, Gavin Smith, review of The School of the Americas, pp. 472-473.
Journal of Latin American Studies, October, 1995, Georgina Waylen, review of Precarious Dependencies: Gender, Class, and Domestic Service in Bolivia, p. 747; February, 2006, Brian Loveman, review of The School of the Americas, p. 221.
Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, September, 2006, August Carbonella, review of The School of the Americas, p. 715.
Labour/Le Travail, spring, 2003, Alvin Finkel, review of Teetering on the Rim, p. 344.
Latin American Politics and Society, spring, 2006, J. Patrice McSherry, review of The School of the Americas, p. 189.
Latin American Research Review, winter, 2007, Silvia Borzutzky, review of The School of the Americas, p. 167.
Perspectives on Political Science, spring, 2005, Michael P. Bobic, review of The School of the Americas, p. 107.
Publishers Weekly, June 28, 2004, review of The School of the Americas, p. 39.
Sojourners Magazine, June, 2005, review of The School of the Americas, p. 38.
Vanderbilt University Department of Anthropology Web site,http://www.vanderbilt.edu/ (May 22, 2008), brief biography of Gill.