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Elana Zilberg

Associate Professor


Co-Director with Professor Matilde Córboba AzcárateNature, Space and Politics, International Institute (2017-Present)

Principal Investigator, The University of California Collaboratory for Ethnographic Design (CoLED) (2015-2017)

Co-Founder with Professor Eli Elinoff, The Studio for Ethnographic Design (2012-2017)

Faculty Affiliate:


My earlier work focused on security, space, and mobility between the United States and Latin America. In my book Space of Detention: The Making of a Transnational Gang Crisis between Los Angeles and San Salvador (Duke University Fall 2011), I tracked the production of transnational space through the combined forces of neoliberalism and globalization, and the intersection between immigration, criminal, and antiterrorist law. My new work on urban river revitalization movements extends my interest in the production of space and urban built environment into the domains of urban nature, infrastructure, and environmental activism. 

Trained as a cultural anthropologist, I am committed to exploring how ethnographic methodology can be of use to students in Communication and Science Studies, and how these disciplines push the method in new and productive directions. I teach graduate seminars on ethnographic methods and writing, and I am co-founder of the Studio for Ethnographic Design on campus.

Ph.D in Anthropology from the University of Texas at Austin, Department of Anthropology (2002)


Space of Detention: The Making of a Transnational Gang Crisis between Los Angeles and San Salvador (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press Fall 2011).

Book Manuscript

Bridging Divides: Reimagineering Race, Nature, and Infrastructure at the Los Angeles River. (In progress.)

Book Chapters

  • "The Military Option: Surplus Masculinities, Violence and the State" in Post-Colonial Moral Panics, Micol Seigel ed. Routledge, 2018.
  • “Yes, we did!”, “¡Si se pudó!”: Regime Change and the Transnational Politics of Hope between the U.S. and El Salvador,” in Neoliberalism, Interrupted: Social Change and Contested Governance in Contemporary Latin America. Edited by Nancy Postero and Mark Goodale (Forthcoming with Stanford University Press 2013).
  •  "Inter-American Ethnography: Tracking Salvadoran Transnationality at the Borders of Latino and Latin American Studies” in Companion to Latino Studies. Juan Flores and Renato Rosaldo, eds. Oxford: Blackwell (2007).
  • "Refugee Gang Youth: Zero Tolerance and the Security State in Contemporary US-Salvadoran Relations, in Youth, Law and Globalization, Sudhir Venkatesh and Ronald Kassimir, eds. Stanford: Stanford University Press (2007).


In Spanish

  • “Los locos expulsados del reino: Delineando nuevamente la geografía de la violencia de las pandillas entre las Américas (Los Ángeles y San Salvador),” in Ciudades translocales en las Americas: Espacio, flujos y representación.  Co-edited by Marcial Godoy-Anativia and Rossana Reguillo. Guadalajara, Mexico: ITESO Press with the Social Science Research Council . 2005.
  • “Una esquina problematica: el medio ambiente destruido y reconstuido de un barrio centromamericano de Los Angeles,” in Estudios Centroamericanos, July-August, 2004, 696-710
  • “‘Se han vuelto haraganes’: Jovenes, migración y identitades laborales,” with Mario Lungo in Transformando El Salvador: Migración, Sociedad y Cultura, Mario Lungo and Susan Kandel eds., San Salvador: FUNDE, 1999, 39-93.
  • "La relocalización de la cultura en la migración internacional salvadoreña,” in Migración Internacional y Desarollo, Vol. II, Mario Lungo ed., San Salvador: FUNDE, 1995, 127-161.