Leslie Salzinger, assistant professor, sociology
Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley
Specialization: Ethnography, gender, feminist theory, economics
Representative publication: Genders in Production: Making Workers in Mexico’s Global Factories, University of California Press
My overall interest is in understanding how meanings and identities—about gender and other things as well—shape the economy. In my last project, I went to export processing plants in Mexico and looked at the role of femininity in structuring the way managers organize production and get people to work. My current research is in finance, and I’m looking at the peso-dollar exchange. Since I’m an ethnographer, I actually sit with traders in Mexico City and New York City and watch them trade. I’m interested in how masculinity and national allegiances and corporate cultures—among other things—end up shaping how these markets function. There was a period in the early 1990s when it became clear to me that finance was what determined a tremendous amount of any third world country’s trajectory. As a progressive, I felt like it was important to take apart the image of finance as something that we couldn’t affect or control. I think that if we can get people to see the process as less inevitable, we can find tools for challenging it ideologically.
And of course, doing all this ethnographically is incredible fun. You get the great privilege of wandering from world to world and immersing yourself in each. Currency traders are pretty far from where I am in my normal life, but my job is to understand them in their own terms as part of grasping how the economy works.