This article reviews the recent and emerging post-Cold War sociocultural anthropology research on Central America, defined as the five countries that share a common colonial and postcolonial history: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. Following a consideration of the foundational literature widely engaged by scholars to theorize regional processes, three sections reflect major themes of investigation in the area: political economy, including environmental concerns and migration; political, ethnic, and religious subjectivities; and violence, democracy, and in/security, including gangs. We conclude that the well-developed anthropology of Central America has made key contributions to disciplinary analyses and debates, especially in the fields of political and economic anthropology and in terms of furthering studies of violence, migration, neoliberalism, and postconflict democracy. Anthropologists working in the region have been at the forefront of public and "engaged" anthropology, recognizing the political contexts and power relations in which knowledge is produced.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)381-400
Number of pages20
JournalAnnual Review of Anthropology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Oct 21 2015


  • Democracy
  • Political economy
  • Politics
  • Security
  • Violence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Anthropology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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