Luisa Steur is Associate Professor at the Department of Anthropology at the University of Amsterdam. Her current work is preceded by more than twenty years of research on social movement politics, socialism, and capitalist development in the global South. Since the culmination of her PhD (Central European University)in 2011, she has been engaged in multiple international research projects to examine the entanglement of capitalist change and shifting forms of political identification in the global South (particularly: Kerala and Cuba).
Steur is recognized for her contributions to international social science in the field of labor and social movement politics. With more than 25 single-authored publications to her name, she has been published in anthropological, sociological, historical, development and regional studies journals. Her monograph “Indigenist Mobilization: Confronting Electoral Communism and Precarious Livelihoods in Post-Reform Kerala” was published with Berghahn in 2017. Steur has (co-)organized more than 20 academic seminars and panels internationally and has participated as presenter in over 50. She is also lead and managing editor of Focaal-Journal of Global and Historical Anthropology (published Open Access).
Steur was employed by the School of Oriental and African Studies (London) as a post-doctoral researcher in 2011 before starting as Assistant Professor at the University of Copenhagen in 2012. She subsequently moved to the University of Amsterdam in 2016 where she was granted tenure in March 2018. Steur has a long track record of service to the academic community, including membership of the Program Committee of the Anthropology Department of the UvA (2017-2021) and of the Works Council (OR) of the UvA’s faculty of Social and Behavioral Sciences (2021-now).
As a University of Amsterdam associate professor, Steur’s research focuses on the two most genuine and resilient remaining “actually existing socialist states” in the global South -- Kerala and Cuba – and draws crucial lessons from there for current global efforts to rethink development, political theory, and subaltern praxis from a decolonial standpoint. The research is anchored in the anthropology of labor and thus particularly sensitive to how ordinary working people (re)interpret the existential problems in their lives and how these interpretations are linked to the shifting relations of power that shape the context in which they make a living.
Since 2014, Luisa Steur has supervised more than 11 MA theses to completion and served on 2 PhD examining committees. She currently is (co-)supervising five PhD research projects, the first of which is expected to finish by 2024.
Indigenist Mobilization: Confronting Electoral Communism and Precarious Livelihoods in Post-reform Kerala
In Kerala, political activists with a background in Communism are now instead asserting political demands on the basis of indigenous identity. Why did a notion of indigenous belonging come to replace the discourse of class in subaltern struggles? Indigenist Mobilization answers this question through a detailed ethnographic study of the dynamics between the Communist party and indigenist activists, and the subtle ways in which global capitalist restructuring leads to a resonance of indigenist visions in the changing everyday working lives of subaltern groups in Kerala.
“The ethnographic material incorporated in the book is vast… But the richness of the material presented precisely offers the book its authority— the multiple conjunctures that led to the rise of indigeneity are detailed with great effort. For young researchers using ethnography as a method, the work could present an example of navigating positionality issues determined by one’s social location through the sheer detail of the evidences collected and the sensitivity with which they are presented… The book is perhaps most important for the theoretical insights it provides.” • Dialectical Anthropology
“This book is recommended reading for those who work with issues of land governance, resource politics, social mobilisation and identity and citizenship, and to students and general readers eager to get an impression of what anthropology at its rigorous best looks like.” • The Asia Pacific Journal of Anthropology
“Indigenist Mobilization ably shows that indigeneity is not an inevitable let alone natural or essential approach to identity and action but one that, as anthropology has become adept at describing, is built by specific actors in specific circumstances for specific purposes. This lesson is crucial for the discipline as well as for policymakers who must deal with the demands of newly-energized ‘indigenous’ groups.” • Anthropology Review Database
“This is a wonderfully written piece that will raise some eyebrows and generate some wonderful debates. The critique of indigenist “identity” politics has been sorely needed for a long time, and this work helps us assess that context in a more robust and critical fashion without falling into a lackluster, celebratory mode of championing indigenous politics on a pure level of ‘identity’ and ‘rights’.” • Ananthakrishnan Aiyer, University of Michigan
“A summation of outstanding research, and based on ethical, committed, and egalitarian fieldwork, this book has an enormously important contribution to make to a number of fields, including South Asian Politics, Ethnography and History, Social Movement Analysis, International Studies and Environmental Studies.” • Kavita Philip, UC Irvine
Links to book reviews:
Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology, University of Copenhagen (01/2012 - 03/2016). Teaching and research -- including one semester (Fall-Winter 2014) sabbatical, spent in Centro Havana, affiliated to the Juan Marinello Institute for Cultural Research.
Post-Doctoral Research Fellow, Department of Anthropology and Sociology, School of Oriental and African Studies, London (01/2011 – 12/2011). →ESRC-funded research project “Caste out of development: Civil society activism and transnational advocacy on Dalit rights and development”. ESRC impact evaluation (October 2014): highest rank of “outstanding research”.
PhD - Sociology and Social Anthropology (Magna Cum Laude), Central European University Budapest. (10/2004 –12/ 2011). Dissertation: “Indigenist mobilization: ’Identity’ versus ‘class’ after the Kerala model of development?” Examiners: Judit Bodnar (internal), Prem Rajaram (internal), Jan Breman (external: University of Amsterdam).
MSc - Development Studies, (Distinction), School of Oriental and African Studies, London (2002-2003).
BA - Social Science major (Cum Laude), University College Utrecht (1999-2002; including semester at University of Cape Town).
PhD students whose project I have supervised/am supervising:
Arati Kade (UvA) - "Nomadic communities, Brahmanical hegemony, and Nationalism from below"
Raviv Litman (UvA) -"The Price is White? Foreign Teachers in China’s Private ESL Industry"
Khidir Prawirosusanto (UvA) - "Pitching Promises, Imagining Futures: The Yogyakarta International Airport and Aerotropolis Development in Indonesia"
Sonali Shirke (UvA) - "Caste, housing right struggles, and urban space in Mumbai"
Nidhish Sundar (UvA) - "Politics of Hope? Dalit communists and Communism in post-reform Kerala"
MA students I’ve supervised:
Chantal Vissers - Dutch Interns in the Curaçaoan Hospitality Business: Between Diversity and Racialization, the Case of Hipster Restaurant “Bario” (UvA, 2022)
Annamaria Laudini – Empowered by migration? Rethinking agency and gender roles among Indian women in Lazio, Italy. (UvA, 2021)
Linda Lemmen – FARCian family: Liminality and social relations while transforming from a guerrilla group into a political party (UvA, 2019).
Judith van den Velde – Resignation in a revolutionary town: Subalternity in the working-class community of the agricultural and ‘anti-capitalist’ village of Marinaleda (Southern Spain) (UvA, 2019)
Claire Sterngold - Artisanal Exploitation: Craft tequila and the reproduction of class in rural Mexico. (UvA, 2017).
Shahernaz Kargan - Rethinking the riots: Counter-narratives by Brixton’s black youth in the aftermath of 2011 London riots. (UvA, 2016).
Tilde Siglev - "For the health of the neighborhood": Urban Transformation, Local Resistance, and Politics of Development in the Lower Ninth Ward of post-Katrina New Orleans. (University of Copenhagen, 2016)
Marie Emilie Sørensen - Living with the crisis as if it was not there: An anthropological inquiry into young people's engagement with the Greek economic crisis. (University of Copenhagen, 2015)
Sharan Kaur - between self-sufficiency and survival: Organic farming enterprises, volunteer labour, and the dilemmas of commodification in rural Portugal. (University of Copenhagen, 2015)
Line Bjerregaard - "You have to know how to make the money grow": An anthropological study of the "class race" amongst peri-urban farmers in India. (University of Copenhagen, 2014)
Selection of the courses I teach/have taught:
-Political Anthropology: Capitalistm, Class and Contestation (UvA)
-The Anthropology of Latin America and the Caribbean (UvA)
-Inleiding in the Sociologie der Niet-Westerse samenlevingen (UvA)
-India Lecture Series (IIS, UvA)
-Anthropological Analysis (University of Copenhagen)
-Political Movements (University of Copenhagen)