Fernando Montero

Fernando Montero

Dissertation Review Committee

Research Interest

Research Sub-interest

Indigeneity, War on Drugs, Military, Policing, Sexuality and the Military, Drug Economies, Piracy, Political Economy, Region Formation, Racialization and Ethnic Relations, Afro-Descendant/Indigenous Relations in the Americas, Customary Law, Civil Law and Martial Law


Central America and the Caribbean, Urban United States; Moskitia


Fernando’s dissertation examines the recent military occupation of the Afro-Indigenous Moskitia region of Central America (Nicaragua/Honduras) in the context of the “War on Drugs.” Based on multiple periods of residence in occupied Miskitu villages across the Nicaragua-Honduras border, the dissertation studies the everyday life of petty sovereignty: Nicaraguan and Honduran soldiers working in contexts where state and market infrastructure is rudimentary, and where they therefore rely on local villagers for labor, supplies, and logistical support. Violating military rules, soldiers habitually find sexual and romantic companionship in Miskitu villages. The dissertation argues that understanding Central American drug control regimes requires attention not only to the history of war and extractivism in Afro-Indigenous regions, but also to Afro-Indigenous kinship and gender norms, property forms and economic practices, and overlapping jurisdictions of regional governance. Ricocheting between the vantage point of soldiers, their lovers and former lovers, and other residents of Miskitu villages across the Nicaragua-Honduras border, the dissertation moves back and forth between multiple analytic and experiential scales: from the intimate interactions between soldiers and Miskitu women, through the rivalries and interactions between Miskitus from various parts of the region, to the significance of the international border splitting the Moskitia in two and the larger geopolitical relations giving shape to regional drug control practices. The dissertation argues for decentering the US in analyses of hemispheric drug control regimes while recognizing the irrefutable impact of American drug policy south of the Rio Grande.

Fernando’s dissertation draws on his earlier field research on policing and mass incarceration in the segregated Puerto Rican neighborhood of North Philadelphia. In collaboration with the anthropologists Philippe Bourgois, Laurie Hart, and George Karandinos, Fernando is coauthoring a book, Cornered: The Carceral and Psychiatric Management of Poverty in Puerto Rican North Philadelphia. The book’s main contribution will be its political economy analysis of the gendered interface between mass incarceration and the United States’ Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program for psychiatric disability. In the US, both the carceral regime and the psychiatric industry generate value on the basis of the exclusion of marginalized populations from the legal economy.


Princeton University, BA in History, 2006