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Haenn's research focuses on rural, smallholding farmers in Mexico as they become swept into global flows. Her writing examines these farmers' encounters with rain forest conservation, international development trends, state supports for industrialized agriculture, and international migration. Overarching themes include gendered differences in people's experiences of globalization, the constrained options available to rural Mexicans seeking to make a livelihood, and what people can and cannot know about the global ties that envelop them. Rural Americans face similar challenges in their lives, and Haenn writes with an eye toward those parallels. Haenn's research has been supported by the National Science Foundation, the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, and the Fulbright-García Robles program. She serves on the board of the Society for Economic Anthropology.
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Finds that the program, in which some 25% of Mexicans living in Mexico receive cash from the Mexican government in exchange for certain actions, offers modest economic gains for women, but women also use the monies to compensate for state cuts to smallholding agriculture.
Shows how the ecological knowledge of smallholding farmers in Mexico gets papered over in state bureaucracies.
Takes the perspective of women who never leave Mexico to ask: How does international migration get its start? Once begun, how does migration continue? How do family and neighbors act to put the brakes on international travel?
Describes the politics of rain forest conservation in Mexico in the mid-1990s.
Outlines some of the pressures smallholders face to abandon their work. Examines the careers of conservation employees who must deny their ties to peasant communities in order to advance.
Explains Mexico's property system, government attempts to institute private property and the resulting solidification of a two-tiered citizenship. Examines how Mexico's 1992 counter-reforms reinforced social hierarchies between two "classes" of residents within three ejidos in an agricultural frontier in Campeche. Shows that the reforms cemented the second-class status of pobladores, as their access to land, natural resources such as firewood and governmental subsidies is now even more contested.