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In this article, I draw upon over two years of fieldwork in a Garifuna community in Tela Bay, Honduras, to explore the ethical and political contradictions bound up with activist-oriented ethnographic research. The rise of tourism as a means of national development and a driver of local economic desires has fractured communal politics in Triunfo de la Cruz, particularly around questions pertaining to land tenure and territorial belonging. I analyze the challenges of doing politically engaged anthropology in such a context. My open collaboration with land rights activists and ongoing support for the struggle to defend Garifuna collective property rights initiated me into a moral community with the "defensores de la tierra" (defenders of the land). For these communal actors, I was first and foremost an ally, and my academic pursuits were secondary--or at best complimentary--to the exigencies of the political project I was working to support. Significantly, my alignment with land rights activists placed me in awkward tension with positivist approaches to social science research and with members of the opposing communal faction.


This article was originally published in Current Anthropology, available at

PDF includes author's reply to responses to the article.

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