Laurie Medina

Laurie  Medina
  • Associate Professor
  • Director
  • Anthropology
  • Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies



LAURIE KROSHUS MEDINA is Associate Professor of Anthropology and Director of the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies. Her research integrates issues in economic development, environmentalism, and indigenous rights. Her research on agricultural development in Belize links the construction and mobilization of collective identities to negotiations over development priorities and agendas. Her work on ecotourism in Belize focuses on efforts to combine economic development with conservation goals, as these intersect with struggles over indigenous rights to land.Dr. Medina’s current project explores the complex negotiations involved in implementing ecotourism in several Mopan Maya villages in the tropical forests of southern Belize. The creation of protected areas in southern Belize and the promotion of tourism to those protected areas have incorporated residents of nearby villages into debates over environmentalist and development agendas that are simultaneously local and global in scope. Maya villagers negotiate with government officials, international development donors, tourists, national and international environmentalist NGOs, and transnational indigenous rights organizations over a range of questions: What are the goals of development and conservation, and how might they be achieved? What rights and resources should local communities enjoy? How should village residents be integrated into ecotourism? What kinds of power are exercised by the diverse stakeholders involved in ecotourism, and how does power structure their participation in planning and policy making? The project also explores negotiations among village residents themselves, over issues such as the gendered impact of ecotourism, the ways that inequalities among villagers enable or limit participation in ecotourism, and representations of Maya culture in tourism. Since contests over the concepts of ‘environment’ and ‘development’ in southern Belize are linked to Maya struggles for land and autonomy, the research also explores Maya communities’ efforts to win state recognition for their claims to the lands they have traditionally used via a series of legal petitions filed in the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the Belize Supreme Court. Dr. Medina’s courses include a graduate seminar titled Culture, Resources, and Power and an undergraduate course on Latin America.


  • Conservation, Protected Areas, and Environmental Government
  • Economic Development
  • Ecotourism
  • Indigenous Rights Struggles and the Production of International Indigenous Rights Law
  • Maya Studies
  • Central America, Belize